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43 of 48 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 on 24 April 2013 by Susie B

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars No chiller but an enjoyable read.
I enjoyed “This House is Haunted” but can’t pretend that it had me on the edge of my seat. To write an original and spine–chilling ghost story must be every bit as much of a challenge as to write a good erotic novel. In both the pitfalls are gaping.

To base the story on a governess and two children and to place the action in the midst of...
Published 7 months ago by Bluecashmere.


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3 of 3 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)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 50 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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars No chiller but an enjoyable read., 29 Dec. 2014
By 
Bluecashmere. (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: This House is Haunted (Paperback)
I enjoyed “This House is Haunted” but can’t pretend that it had me on the edge of my seat. To write an original and spine–chilling ghost story must be every bit as much of a challenge as to write a good erotic novel. In both the pitfalls are gaping.

To base the story on a governess and two children and to place the action in the midst of the nineteenth century points to no lack of bravery on the part of John Boyne. Comparison with James’ “The Turn of The Screw” in particular, not to mention “Jane Eyre” is inevitable. And as if that weren’t enough the story starts with the dramatic “I blame Charles Dickens for the death of my father.” Dickens himself was no fool when it came to ghost stories, though perhaps wisely he stuck to the short story form. Anyway, three major novelists invoked set the crossbar high.

On top of all this clichés and stereotypes beckon at every turn. The desolate, crumbling manor house, the fog, the storms, the brooding, suspicious locals, the sullen retainers are all called upon to leave us in no doubt as to what manner of tale we have here. Eliza Caine is a not unpromising heroine, though again out of the mould. At times I find her maddeningly inconsistent – at one moment understandably on the brink of nervous collapse and then within no time full of courage and obdurate resolution. Such a character is, perhaps, necessary to carry the plot, which I find sadly predictable. A few unexpected twists and red herrings would not go amiss and it is a pity that the conclusion to the final chapter is so transparently obvious.

There is a sense in which, I suppose, many of us turn to fiction of this nature to find precisely these ingredients – and fair enough, but I’d have liked to have felt a little more quickening of the pulse and a few more surprises.
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43 of 48 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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8 of 9 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 100 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 A traditional ghost story with no real surprises,, 22 July 2015
By 
JK "J. K." (UK) - See all my reviews
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A traditional Victorian ghost story that's just a little bit predictable and cliched for my own personal tastes. In part a homage to James Joyce's 'Turn of the Screw'; young governess, Eliza Caine, in an old house caring for two children in the mid 19th century. The central theme of a young, well bought-up lady all alone in the world and facing isolation, hostility and suspicion immediately put me in mind of the 'Bronte' sisters.

John Boyne does a decent job. He has a good stab at creating a dark, gloomy Victorian ghost story but 'This House is Haunted' feels more like a re-telling of what has gone before than a fresh idea written to spook and unsettle.

Eliza Caine isn't a bad heroine but she's entirely as you'd expect her to be and written to formula. Don't expect any surprises from Eliza but do expect the often used concept of female insanity, mental frailty, to raise its head as the story progresses.

I really can't say much more about the novel. It's a typical haunted house story; a frightened, though resilient, young woman responsible for the care of a couple of children faces opposition and isolation amid a host of unexplained, supernatural, events. There is a mystery running behind the scenes that's slowly uncovered but it's predictable especially for those, like me, who read a lot of supernatural fiction.

Not bad. Not brilliant. No real surprises but a decently dark atmosphere and a book I'd recommend to those who like their ghost stories on the light side and written to a traditional formula.
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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
(VINE VOICE)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 50 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
5.0 out of 5 stars A completely plausible ghost story, 4 Nov. 2014
"I blame Charles Dickens for the death of my father". Who can fail to be intrigued by this opening line? Despite having all the components of a book that I wouldn't have expected to like - gothic, Victorian, ghosts - I absolutely loved this story. In it, Eliza Caine, having lost her beloved father, moves from London to Norfolk to take up a role as governess to two children at Gaudlin Hall. But nothing is as it should be and Eliza becomes more and more convinced of a malevolent force at work.

Maybe it's the quality of John Boyne's writing (Crippen is one of my favourite books and who can forget the wonderful The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas) but he managed to write a ghost book that rang true to me which not many do. Eliza herself tells the story and I liked her voice very much. She is a level-headed narrator who tells a completely plausible story.

I raced through this book and couldn't wait to find out what would happen next. And as well as the great opening lines, the book ends with a sinister, but not completely unexpected, turn of events. I enjoyed it all immensely.

Thank you to the publishers and Netgalley for providing a copy for review.
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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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3.0 out of 5 stars Well written but not very scary pastiche!, 26 Jan. 2015
By 
still searching (MK UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
The story, beginning in 1867, is of an only daughter, Eliza Caine, who loses her much loved father when she is twenty one years of age and discovers he failed to leave her very much of anything in his will, including the house in which she was brought up. What is she to do? Well, in common with some other literary heroines of the time she decides to become a governess and travels to the stately but decaying pile in which her new charges reside determined to begin a new life in the country away from the dirt, noise, memories and fog of Victorian London.

Her father had been a devoted fan of Charles Dickens and references to his novels abound in the early pages of this book. Eliza, herself an avid reader, also cannot help likening her circumstances to those literary young ladies as she thinks of her new home, with Jane Austen's (or, more correctly, Fitzwilliam Darcy's) Pemberly in mind!

Eventually, after surviving a disturbing incident on the platform of the station as she alights following her train journey from London, she encounters the children for whom she will act as governess. And very strange they are too: well, at least that is true of the oldest; twelve year old Isabella, who seems far too old for her chronological age; and Eustace, who, at eight, is somewhat withdrawn and seems younger than his. We are now firmly in `The Turn of the Screw' country and one feels almost sorry for Eliza for missing out on a novel, published more than twenty years later, that might have given her real cause to pause before embarking on her new career.

Various events occur with various `bumps' in the night taking place, that put her in seeming great danger and when questioned nobody seems to be in a position to enlighten her as to their origin: among them, neither the solicitor who handles the family's business, nor the two remaining retainers in the house. At this point I couldn't help but be irritated by her apparent acceptance of this infuriating taciturnity but I pressed on and eventually, she decides to act in what, one supposes, was a way most unbecoming of a well brought up young woman and drags extremely grudging answers from those `in the know'.

It's okay as a pastiche of Gothic horror a la Northanger Abbey but not as an outright traditional ghost story: don't expect it to keep you up at night; either because you're too scared to go to sleep or because you can't possibly wait till morning to find out what happens next!
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3.0 out of 5 stars If the book wasn't written as a pastiche of all the best ghost Victorian/ Edwardian ghost stories then the author has ..., 30 Dec. 2014
By 
E.A. COLE (North Yorkshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: This House is Haunted (Paperback)
Being a fan of ghost stories I chose this never having read a book by John Boyne before. Besides who can resist a tag line that accuses Charles Dickens of causing the heroine's father's death!

If the book wasn't written as a pastiche of all the best ghost Victorian/ Edwardian ghost stories then the author has done a remarkable job of copying those styles.

Set in 1867 the narrator of the story is Eliza Caine. She is a young woman who is left alone in the world by her father's death - brought on by a visit to see Mr Dickens on stage. Grieving, Eliza impulsively decides to abandon her old life in London and applies for a job as a governess in rural Norfolk. Once there the ghost story begins in earnest as no sooner than she sets foot on the railway station platform a phantom hand attempts to push her beneath a train.

Arriving at her new place of employment she discovers her charges, Isabella and Eustace, alone and seemingly abandoned. So begins Eliza's attempt to uncover the terrible secrets of the Westerley family of Gaudlin Hall. And her encounters with an increasingly violent ghost, a mysterious old man, a clerk called Cratchett and a host of evasive villagers.

Eliza is a very well written character - her voice has a genuine feel, with the language being very much in the style fitting the time period, until the climax of the story when suddenly we seem to have shifted from Victorian England - the story goes all James Herbert instead of M R James! It was as though those last few chapters were written separately. What really spoiled it for me was the phrase 'adrenalin rush', it completely broke the ambience of an otherwise well paced, well written narrative.

And unfortunately what might have been a four, or even five, star book can only be judged as a three. What a shame!
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This House is Haunted
This House is Haunted by John Boyne (Hardcover - 25 April 2013)
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