Friday, September 27, 2013

Review: This House is Haunted by John Boyne

This house is clearly haunted. So why stay there in this haunted, decaying, country estate? For the sake of a good story, that’s why. 21 year-old Eliza Caine is left parentless, optionless, and eventually homeless when coming across an ad in the newspaper for employment as a governess. Her grief for losing her father, of which she blames on Charles Dickens, motivates her to leave work as a school teacher in hopes of finding a new beginning in Norfolk. She just didn’t anticipate her new beginning could potentially be her ending.

John Boyne is a favorite of mine after reading only one novel, The Absolutist. When I was given notice that I was approved for This House is Haunted via Netgalley, I could not have been more excited. A favorite author of mine writing, in one of my favorite genres, what could possibly go wrong?

Boyne brings to life the world that was London 1867 with this atmospheric, gothic tale of a woman who crosses paths with a ghost I wouldn’t want to be alone in a back alley with. Eliza, being educated, is able to paint a vivid picture in this narrative. There’s enough foreshadowing to draw readers into the mystery that is the Westerley estate. But there’s also enough information given to our heroine to suggest she’s as insane as the ghost for sticking around.

Although Eliza makes some questionable decisions, John Boyne fleshes her out completely. She is definitely the most developed, well rounded character in This House is Haunted. Because she can’t know everything about all the people she comes in contact with, they are a little thin but still handled well enough that they are memorable. The children in her care Isabella and Eustace could have been developed a lot more, but I attribute their lack of depth to add to the mysterious tone in this novel.

Although there is no doubt that Boyne is an accomplished writer, being a lover of all things thrills and chills, I noticed that he did fall into a few b-horror movie traps. I won’t list them all. They’ll scream from the pages at you like the woman who dies first in every horror movie. I couldn’t for the life of me understand why Eliza stayed. Even in the end… maybe I’m a wuss, but no! I’m not staying anywhere I’m not wanted. There didn’t seem to be enough of a bond, so why go through all the scrapes, bruises, hunting, running, and near-death encounters? Oh yes! I answered already. For the sake of a good story that is.

This House is Haunted doesn’t add anything new to the genre that is gothic, historical fiction, but is definitely worth the read. John Boyne is definitely a favorite and this exploration of unbreakable bonds should be on anyone’s to-read list. The word flow and pacing will keep readers reading from page one to the end in one sitting.  ****

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