Mx3 Review: This House Is Haunted by John Boyne

October 8, 2013 Horror, Murders, Monsters, & Mayhem, Other Press, Review 9

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Other Press (October 8, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 1590516796
  • Source: Publisher

Twenty-one year old Eliza Cain lives alone with her father. The two share a fondness for the writing of Charles Dickens and, despite her father’s ailing health, the two attend a reading by Dickens himself. The cold, wet weather takes a toll on her father’s heath and he succumbs to the flu shortly thereafter.  Now an orphan and, learning they didn’t own their home outright, Eliza must find employment in order to sustain herself.

She responds to an advertisement for a governess in Norfolk. While the advertisement is vague, not mentioning how many children or their ages, Eliza is certain this is the first step toward a new life.   During her journey to Gaudlin Hall, Eliza has a nearly deadly experience that leaves her anxious and apprehensive about her decision.  That feeling increases upon her arrival at the old home, which seems to be without an adult presence watching over the two children.  The two children, a young boy and his sister, offer no explanation of their parents absence. Eliza’s sense of foreboding intensifies when yet another experience has her questioning the history (and occupancy, both living and dead) of Gaudlin Hall.  The townspeople change the subject when questioned about the Hall’s history and, only after much persistence, Eliza learns the truth about the deadly history behind Gaudlin Hall and what really happened to the young children’s parents. Unwilling to abandon the children, who have obviously experienced a great deal of loss already, Eliza alone faces Gaudlin Hall’s long-buried secrets, facing an evil obsessed with protecting the young children under her care.

I’m a huge fan of classic, Gothic ghost stories. Upon reading the summary of this novel and, already a fan of the author’s previous work, I knew I was in for a treat when reading This House Is Haunted. The premise of this novel (a young girl accepts a role of governess in a dark, remote mansion) is not unique, Boyne still manages to create a work guaranteed to send shivers down your spine.  Boyne’s fondness and appreciation of Dickens’ work is largely apparent in both the overall tone of the novel and in the characters names he uses (i.e. Cratchett).  Boyne also draws on the work of other literary greats and I found myself trying to determine the correlations as I read.

I am particularly fond of Eliza’s character. Forced into orphan-hood, she faces countless adversities. While she really never had to care for anyone but herself and, in the end, her father, Eliza quickly picks up the nurturing role in order to watch over the children in her care. Perhaps its her own experience with loss that urges her to go on despite the horrific accidents that transpired at Gaudlin Hall or, understanding the evil that roams the cold, dark halls only wants best for the children, although the execution of this maternal bond is deadly.

All together, Boyne has created in this novel all of the characteristics present in an outstanding Victorian ghost story, making this one of the “must-read” books of this Halloween season. Highly, highly recommended.


9 Responses to “Mx3 Review: This House Is Haunted by John Boyne”

  1. Anita
    Twitter: anitalovesbooks

    I tried to get into this one, and sadly my dislike of Dickens impacted my feelings on this one. It was hard for me to get into, and hard for me to let go…wanted so to like it!! Great review Jenn.

    • Jenn
      Twitter: jennbookshelves

      Oh no! Don’t let that influence your opinion of the book! Really, the Dickens-esque style really tapers off after the beginning.

  2. Becky
    Twitter: BeckyLeJeune

    Since I’ve read Henry James’s TURN OF THE SCREW more recently than Dickens, I found this one to be more in line with the former but more readable, if that makes sense – I trudged through TOTS but had no issue with Boyne’s book. Such a fun weekend read!

  3. Deb Atwood

    This looks like great fun. Yes, from the summary I see the nod to Henry James as well. I enjoy catching allusions when I read. I’m reading Stephen King’s Bag of Bones right now, and he mentions Bartleby the Scrivener of all people.

    I’ll put this one on my to read ghost list. Thanks for the review.

  4. Anne Simonot

    I didn’t mind the Dickenesque feel to the book, but while I like it, I didn’t love it.

  5. Anne Simonot

    Oops… what is it with me and comments today? I *liked” it, but didn’t love it.

  6. anne

    This novel sounds enthralling and unique. With Dickens influence ever better. Many thanks.