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Synopsis via Goodreads: Funny, poetic and touching, The Haunted Moustache is the fantastical and 83% true story of a unique inheritance: a hundred-year-old moustache. Receiving this curio from an eccentric aunt, David Bramwell embarks on a ten-year journey to discover all he can about its former owner. His quest draws him into the underbelly of Brighton – its seances, spiritual churches and a seedy basement club – where he unwittingly becomes host to a modern-day freakshow. Against a backdrop of occultism, caravan parks and counter-culture icons, The Haunted Moustache is mischevious and supernatural.
Writing two five star reviews in a row makes me feel like I’m doing something right with my recent book selections. Enter The Haunted Moustache: One of the most entertaining partially true memoirs I’ve ever stumbled upon. While it sits at a short 191 pages, I actually spent more time reading this book than I do for one much longer. Filled with photographs and news articles, The Haunted Moustache offers more visual stimulation than your typical novel. Written as a tour through author David Bramwell’s time in the gorgeous seaside town of Brighton the story takes the reader through the more esoteric side of various locations in England with the resort town being its main focus.
You know when you just know you’re going to love a certain book, even before you begin reading it? That’s precisely how I felt about The Haunted Moustache. As I mentioned in a previous post, I first heard of Bramwell’s curious and humorous tale while listening to the podcast Mysterious Universe. I was so pleased once I started reading because I had been expecting a book that was unlike any I had read before, and it truly was. Bramwell knows how to keep a reader hooked; I read every page with such care and attention while he thrusts the reader through the twists and turns of his decade-long excursion to understand a haunted moustache, a bizarre heirloom given to him by his deceased great-aunt.
I have a personal connection to Brighton as it was one of the first few places my boyfriend and I took an overnight trip to when we first began dating. When I moved to London from Southern Ontario, Canada I was used to being a 10-minute drive from the countryside and a 5-minute drive from Lake Ontario. Even Toronto, the closest major city, sat right on the vast Lake that I was so used to being near every day. Even on the days I never saw the lake, I knew that water and the open sky wasn’t far away. And I didn’t realise how much of a comfort that was. During the first couple months in London, I never left the first 3 city zones. While I love London I found being trapped in the middle of a city with a population of nearly 9 million to be extremely suffocating. I remember stepping off the train in Brighton and just feeling like I was near the water. The closer we got the beach the more excited I felt myself becoming. And when I finally stood on Brighton’s famed rocky beach and stared at nothing but blue I felt every bit of tension and fear that came along with moving to a different country leave. It was a literal breath of fresh air.
It’s here that I want to share one of my favourite passages from Bramwell’s book
“It is along this main artery of the city that many are swept towards the seafront and the Palace Pier. From here some visitors head east or west in search of frappuccinos, flip-flops and greasy chips. Others continue straight ahead to the promenade the iron-limbed no-man’s-land that straddles beach and sea, where Penny Falls rattle, dodgems collide and starlings pulsate in great clouds at sunset. Visitors to Brighton might deny it but what they’ve all really come for is the soft rhythm of water on stones, the unbroken horizon and that great mass of rolling blue-grey that soothes the soul, fires the heart and, as Euripides wrote, “washes away man’s ills.” There is, as they say, something in the water.” (Bramwell, The Haunted Moustache, 33)
While working as an example of Bramwell’s stunning prose, this quote is what made me fall in love with his book. This quote so perfectly reflects my first trip to Brighton and the trips I have had to this wonderful seaside town since. I’m reminded of eating greasy food on the pier with my boyfriend before running back to the arcades to play more 1p games to win tiny plastic keychains while listening to the crashing waves from the water below the pier. Bramwell captured the heart and soul of Brighton in his book, a Brighton I never knew existed alongside a Brighton that brought me back to my own time spent weaving down the colourful streets and walking along the beach.
Despite Bramwell’s claim that his Brighton memoir is only 83% true, what remains factual is his love for the town and his love for the strange and peculiar people that lived there during his first ten years of residency. He truly brings the reader on this strange journey with him, giving the impression that this underground side of Brighton is as magical as a trip to Narnia with the same thrills, speculation, frustration, and adventure. The Haunted Moustache has opened me up to a whole new area of British culture and history that I can’t wait to explore.