I’m posting some spoiler-ish stuff, so if you don’t want the book ruined for you, don’t read any further!
I read a book a while back called “The Ghost Writer” by an author named John Harwood. Throughout the course of this tale were several short stories written by one of the characters, and each was a key to the mystery Gerard (the main character) was trying to solve about his family.
One of these stories was titled “The Revenant,” and it related most closely to the mystery in that Gerard’s mother recreated it to drive her sister mad. (Later, Gerard’s mother fled the country and refused to let anything of her past life come into their new life — hence Gerard’s fascination with returning to England, and all the events making up the entire book.)
I didn’t fully understand the significance of it until the other day when I stumbled upon an entry in Wikipedia about revenants. Apparently they are animated corpses (much like mindless zombies, only they drink blood like vampires) who terrorize their family members at every opportunity. Revenge sometimes plays a factor.
And that, is what the surviving Aunt was, and what she was trying to do: Terrorize Gerard’s mother (and her family) to get revenge for her murder.
At the time I read the book, I was quite disappointed. It did not live up to my expectations. However, I think if I had known the definition of a revenant from the start, the book would have been better. I still think he hedged on the ending, but the whole experience would have been better had I understood his nifty little plot device.
Which begs the question: how much should an author give the reader to work with?
I am inclined to say “everything the reader needs to fully understand the story,” but in the case of “The Ghost Writer,” I am unsure how Harwood could have given us the clue about revenants and not have spoiled the entire tale.