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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Atmospheric and Creepy Tale of the Supernatural
With the intriguing opening sentence: "I blame Charles Dickens for the death of my father" the reader learns how Eliza Caine, a young schoolteacher, struggles to cope with the loss of her father when he succumbs to a fever after an unwise trip in bad weather to see the famous author, Charles Dickens, speak at a venue in London. Eliza, as she tells us in her first-person...
Published 15 months ago by Susie B

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Contrived and disappointing, but well written and occasionally creepy.
I thought this was the only book I'd read by John Boyne until I realized that he's The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas author. That was a great read; sadly, this doesn't hit the same high mark.

From the start, there was a feeling of familiarity with both the storyline and characters. New governess, haunted house, swirling mists, whispering locals, a dead mother,...
Published 1 month ago by Bookie


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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Atmospheric and Creepy Tale of the Supernatural, 24 April 2013
By 
Susie B - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: This House is Haunted (Hardcover)
With the intriguing opening sentence: "I blame Charles Dickens for the death of my father" the reader learns how Eliza Caine, a young schoolteacher, struggles to cope with the loss of her father when he succumbs to a fever after an unwise trip in bad weather to see the famous author, Charles Dickens, speak at a venue in London. Eliza, as she tells us in her first-person narrative, is not a beauty; in fact she is very plain and, as such, she feels that marriage is unlikely to be an option that is available to her. Having lost not just her only surviving relative, Eliza is also suffering from the loss of her father's income and it is soon apparent to her that, in order to survive, Eliza will have to rely on her own resources. Therefore, when she sees an advertisement for the post of governess, required to start work immediately at Gaudlin Hall, in Norfolk, Eliza hastily decides to leave her London life behind and make a fresh start and, hopefully, a new life for herself.

Arriving in Norfolk, after a rather frightening incident at the train station, where she almost falls in front of an approaching train, Eliza is surprised when she arrives at Gaudlin Hall and finds two children: twelve-year-old Isabella Westerley, and her brother, eight-year-old Eustace, waiting for her in what appears to be an empty house. Deciding to investigate this unusual situation the next day, Eliza retires to her room looking forward to a good night's sleep, but as she stretches out her tired, aching body in the huge bed, something very strange and alarming happens which she can only explain to herself as the consequence of her being overwrought and overtired. However, that night's disturbance is just the start of a whole series of weird and frightening experiences that cannot be easily explained away, and it gradually becomes clear to Eliza that there is a malign presence in the house. As Eliza pieces together information from the Westerley family's solicitor, Mr Raisin, the vicar, Reverend Deacons and Doctor Toxley and his wife, Madge, she realises that she will need to gather all her strength and powers of reasoning to protect herself and her charges from the sinister and evil presence at Gaudlin Hall.

This novel which has a certain gothic feel to it - think paler shades of Charlotte Bronte/Henry James/Charles Dickens - makes for an unsettling, absorbing and entertaining read. Eliza is a very sympathetic character and it is difficult not to make comparisons between her and Jane Eyre - very plain in appearance, outwardly sensible, but with a passionate heart burning beneath; and the other characters - some of which are unashamedly Dickensian - are colourfully portrayed, from Mr Raisin's clerk, Mr Cratchett (yes, really) to the elusive Mrs Livermore, and the gruesome stableman, Heckling. The author, John Boyne, is rather successful with the narration of his story in the voice of a young, unmarried Victorian woman, and although there were a few inaccuracies (and the author's editor should have noticed that in the 1860s women would normally have worn shawls for additional warmth, not cardigans) I found it was easy to become immersed in this atmospheric and creepy tale of the supernatural. I started reading this when I arrived home from work and just carried on until I had turned the last page - it's eerie enough to unsettle you, but not so terrifyingly sinister that it will keep you awake at night too frightened to turn off the light!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Contrived and disappointing, but well written and occasionally creepy., 21 Jun 2014
By 
Bookie (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
I thought this was the only book I'd read by John Boyne until I realized that he's The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas author. That was a great read; sadly, this doesn't hit the same high mark.

From the start, there was a feeling of familiarity with both the storyline and characters. New governess, haunted house, swirling mists, whispering locals, a dead mother, churlish servants and weird children. Unfortunately, whilst a few scenes were strong in atmosphere, there was little new in the tale or telling and it felt very contrived. As a pastiche it pays homage to a number of authors and styles and there may be some passing interest in making those literary connections. But there was nothing in the well written narrative to make this exceptional or interesting. I felt little in the way of suspense and was waiting for something dramatic or unexpected to happen. It just felt comfortable and predictable and rather disappointing.

I feel a bit mean being critical because I don't underestimate the amount of research and effort required to produce a well written tale. But other authors have done the same kind of story so much better. It's OK, but not great.

My thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for a review copy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hauntingly Atmospheric., 13 July 2014
This review is from: This House is Haunted (Paperback)
I BLAME CHARLES DICKENS FOR THE DEATH OF MY FATHER. What a great opening line to John Boyne's latest novel, a ghost stoty set in the 19th century. As with Eliza Eliza Caine, my parents instilled in me and my siblings a deep love of the novels of Charles Dickens so the opening line persuaded me to buy this book which is not my usual genre.

Briefly, the plot revolves around Eliza Caine, a governess who is obliged, due to her Father's untimely death, to accept an intriguing job offer at a place called Gaudline Hall in rural Norfolk. On arrival at the Hall she finds her charges, a brother and sister, alone and unsupervised.

It becomes immediately apparent that there are strange happenings afoot in Gaudline Hall but I will go no further into the story as I would not wish to divulge too much about the plot in deference to those who have yet to read this novel.

The story is beautifully written and contains all the elements necessary for a chilling tale i.e., a decaying old house, troubled children, sudden gusts of wind, ghostly noises - even to the taciturn man who meets her at the station when she arrives in the middle of the night to take up her post. Boyne has created a wonderful narrator in Eliza Caine who shows resilience and strength of character throughout.

It may not be the most original story but it is nevertheless effective as Boyne succeeds in creating an atmosphere of tension and there is something absolutely wonderful and comforting about being tucked up in bed with a mug of hot chocolate feeling safe and sound while reading a ghost story that can make us jump from time to time.

Recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This House is Haunted, 14 April 2014
By 
S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 10 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)   
Eliza Caine is a young woman, who lives in London with her father. He works in a museum and she teaches in a school for girls; their lives uneventful but happy. However, when her father dies suddenly, Eliza decides on impulse to answer a newspaper advertisement for a governess in Norfolk. To her surprise, she is offered the post with what seems great haste and, almost before she has time to consider, she is on a train and leaving her old life behind. However, on arrival at the fog shrouded station, unseen hands attempt to push her underneath a train...

This is not a very original tale, but it is well written and draws you in. There are lots of references to other authors and novels; from the clerk named after Scrooge’s own, who claims never to have read Dickens, to the two withdrawn and slightly odd children, Isabella and Eustace, who remind you immediately of “The Turn of the Screw,” and they are fun to spot. There is everything you could want from a ghost story – the taciturn carriage driver, locals who turn quiet when Eliza mentions she is the new governess at Gaudlin Hall, a whole host of family secrets and, of course, a malevolent presence. However, Eliza is a young lady who takes her responsibilities seriously and she does not intend to be driven away. Ideal for those who like their ghost stories creepy, rather than frightening, but with excellent characters and a good story. Lastly, I received a copy of this book from the publishers, via NetGalley, for review.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An Okay Ghost Story, 10 April 2014
By 
M. Dowden (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)   
This review is from: This House is Haunted (Paperback)
I did find this book quite an enjoyable, and it must be admitted a fast paced read, and it obviously falls into those books inspired by ‘The Turn of the Screw’. Eliza Caine takes on a new post after her father dies, to become the governess at Gaudlin Hall. Eliza soon realises after she feels a pair of hands trying to push her under a train and that there is no one there, that something odd is happening. As Eliza arrives at Gaudlin Hall she soon finds that there are mysteries, and things that she isn’t being told.

As things progress, Eliza soon finds that although she enjoys the company of the two children in her ward, she herself seems to be in danger from supernatural forces. As an enjoyable ghost story then this is okay, but it also is set in 1867 and thus would also fall into the historical novel category, which is when things start to unravel. There is no author’s note saying that things have been altered for the sake of storytelling, and so we find no excuse for certain facts being completely erroneous.

When Charles Dickens gives one of his public readings in this book, and starts one particular story that will soon be published, this is quite erroneous. The story started here is ‘The Signalman’ which was published in All The Year Round as the Christmas special of 1866, which is one of the tales that make up Mugby Junction. It is hardly a new story that will be published, when it was published the year before. The hanging that is mentioned in this book would probably have been public, as it was general until 1898 when Parliament passed an act making them within prison walls. The hanging would have taken place at Norwich Castle, and not prison as is stated in this book, because it wasn’t there at the time, indeed it was something like twenty years later that it was completed.

So if you are looking for an enjoyable ghost story that will pass a few hours in entertainment, that is quite good, then you should enjoy this. If you expect more from your story when it is set in a particular place and time, and expect details to be correct, then you will be disappointed.

I received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Has Boyne lost his touch?, 21 Jun 2014
This review is from: This House Is Haunted (Paperback)
I love "The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas" so much, that I have read it over and over again. The narrative is original, clever and convincing. The twist at the end of the story? Heart-wrenching. I had hoped for similar things when reading "This House is Haunted". I have never been more disappointed. Yes, it kept me turning the pages in curiosity, but I felt uncomfortable throughout. Perhaps the problem is that I am an English Literature teacher. It seems to me that Boyne has stolen the elements of many well-known Gothic tales: for example, the governess who cannot leave her charges and becomes attached to the male child is clearly borrowed from Henry James' "The Turn of the Screw". For me, the trade mark of an excellent writer is the ability to suggest rather than to state overtly and I found myself wincing, as Boyne spelt out each detail so obviously. It was as if the writer was uncomfortable in his heroine Eliza Caine's "skin". Hopefully Boyne will show his original skill with his next offering.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Formulaic, predictable and historically inaccurate., 1 July 2014
I was so looking forward to this book. It had all the makings of a great story and my hopes were high. It was, sadly, yawningly predictable and deeply dull. I knew where it was headed from the outset and carried on incase it was all part of a grand double bluff. It wasn't. I can best describe it as a 'paint by numbers' ghost story. On top of all of this, Boyne uses language and concepts that are inappropriate to 1867. Go and get yourself a proper ghost story. Try Alison Littlewood's ' The Unquiet House' or Simon Kurt Unsworth's 'Quiet Houses' for examples of how house based ghost stories should be. John Boyne needs to leave ghost stories to those who know what they are doing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Sadly, a really bad read., 17 Jun 2014
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This review is from: This House is Haunted (Paperback)
I don't often write book reviews but felt compelled to do so as this really is a badly written book - how on earth did it get published? I bought it with great anticipation but was disappointed within the first few pages. There is no originality in its setting - girl becomes governess in creepy big house - it wasn't in the least bit scary for a ghost story, every 'twist and turn' was predictable, as was the ending, and the writing was full of inaccuracies and was written very clumsily in places. A real shame.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Jane Eyre meets The Turn Of The Screw, 14 April 2014
By 
Roman Clodia (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: This House is Haunted (Paperback)
Eliza Caine, orphaned at 21, takes a job as a governess in a gloomy old house. But why do all the villagers look away when she tells them where she works? What’s the secret that her two young charges are forbidden to share with her? And who exactly is in the attic?

This is an enjoyable mock-Victorian romp that takes elements from lots of classics novels (Dickens’ ghost stories, Brontė gothic, Henry James’ most sinister and poisonous tale) and shakes them up together. It’s elegantly written but a touch predictable if you’re familiar with the stories from which it draws. Good as easy-reading entertainment.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An atmospheric ghost story., 20 July 2014
This review is from: This House is Haunted (Paperback)
An atmospheric tale, 'This House is Haunted' centers around Eliza Caine, a young lady who has recently lost her father and is seeking a change from her life in London. Upon seeing an advertisement for a governess to two young children, she applies and is accepted for the position and takes up her post at Gaudlin Hall in Norfolk. As events there begin to take a sinister turn, Eliza seeks out the secrets of the hall and her young charges with ghastly consequences!

I did rather feel that I had read the tale before, or seen it on film, as it was a little formulaic. Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable read, I liked the main character Eliza, and found her young charges and the 'ghost' sufficiently creepy to keep me entertained. Not an out and out scarefest, but a good old fashioned ghost story.

*I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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This House is Haunted
This House is Haunted by John Boyne (Paperback - 10 April 2014)
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