This house is haunted by John Boyne

This house is haunted‘This House is Haunted’ tells the tale of Eliza Caine, spirited governess to two slightly unnerving children who seem to be living alone in the gigantic Gaudlin Hall in Norfolk – well, alone apart from the presence that is…

I won’t say too much about the specifics of this book out of fear that giving too much away would seriously impair anyone else’s enjoyment and perhaps occasional shiver.

What I will say is that our protagonist is an excellent character, just the sort of female heroine I like in a period-set novel – that is, she’s strong and brave and doesn’t let the constraints that society imposes upon her gender hold her back. She reminded me quite a bit of Marian Halcombe in Wilkie Collins’ ‘The Woman in White’. The characters were all interestingly drawn, and the children’s dialogue in particular I really enjoyed.

Some really nice descriptions of Norfolk too, in parallel to London where Eliza has come from. And a still oddly fitting description about the London-Norwich train journey made me chuckle (“The train had been delayed in London and then delayed a second time just outside Manningtree”). There’s also a gorgeous scene in which Eliza Caine takes the children to Great Yarmouth for the day – it was a pleasure to imagine from Boyne’s description the beach of yesteryear…

In terms of scares and suspense and a skilfully revealed story, ‘This House is Haunted’ did quite remind me of ‘The Woman in White’ – not to say that it’s derivative, more just up there with another fantastic book, and perhaps part of a greater literary tradition.

I hugely enjoyed this novel (though, after further thought, I’m still not 100% sure it needs the final chapter) – it was a convincing ghost story with its own unique slant in this respect. It was well-written and utterly compelling, I really couldn’t put it down (and so read it very quickly!). Good and scary!

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