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on 25 May 2015
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. In fact it took me 2 nights to read it as i just couldn’t put it down. I had a connection with Eliza from the first sentence and my feelings towards her kept growing throughout.

This is not a scare you out of your wits story but it does intrigue you, just the simple fact that no body in the neighborhood is willing to talk to her about anything, not even the family lawyer wants to explain. You find yourself wanting to stand in front of these people and have a go at them until they tell her everything.

This is definitely a book i will happily read again. There’s so much depth and feeling that draws you in and doesn’t let you go until long after you have finished. It’s been over a week since i read this and i still find myself thinking back to it. Amazing book

I give this a 5/5
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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, Brontë 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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on 10 January 2016
Deliciously atmospheric creepiness and fine storytelling combine to create a satisfying yarn in this, John Boyne's take on the classic haunted house formula. Certainly, all the ingredients of the many of its ilk which have gone before are present and correct; Victorian London pea-soupers, a plain - and naïve - governess, two troubled young charges with a dark history, a crumbling country pile replete with gargoyles and an equally crumbly caretaker, vengeful spirits... However, the tale is only predictable inasmuch as it has echoes of your favourite spine chillers, and that predictability is a comforting familiarity rather than dull repetition. You know what you're getting here, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. The writing prevents it from being another rehash of a tired trope, and our spunky heroine quickly loses her wide-eyed naïveté when faced with the horrors at Gaudlin Hall, becoming all the more likeable for it. The glorious period detail is easy to get lost in, although there are some occasional anachronisms. A minor flaw, however, which doesn't jar overmuch.

While not entirely groundbreaking, 'This House Is Haunted' certainly ticks all the boxes for a wintry-by-the-fireside read. Suspension of disbelief is required, of course, but is that not the case for all good ghost stories? Plenty of jumpy moments, an explosive dénouement and a final, spine-chilling twist - not to mention a cameo from Charles Dickens himself - all add up to a fine example of a classic English ghost story.
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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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on 30 December 2014
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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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 6 October 2013
Thank you to the author, publisher and netgalley for the review copy. ***3.5 stars***

1867. Eliza Caine arrives in Norfolk to take up her position as governess at Gaudlin Hall on a dark and chilling night.

Well this was an interesting tale to be sure. I'm still in "consideration" mode as to whether or not the author was writing with a very tongue in cheek frame of mind or in a completely serious one...either way it works out rather nicely...

All the ingredients for a classic gothic ghost story are here - the grieving young lady taking up a position as governess, strange happenings on the way to said position - and upon arrival a totally unexpected greeting. parents....and a distinct air of unease about, well, everything.

Its certainly a nod in the direction of such novels as Henry James " The Turn of the Screw" and Daphne Du Maurier "Rebecca" and has that same peculiar sense of sublime writing...however as I said earlier, one has to wonder if Mr Boyne was having a bit of fun with us, the readers. There is a lot of cliche here along with a lot of clever supernatural drama..but all mixed up together, hence my still being in consideration mode...

Eliza is an interesting character and cleverly drawn in whichever way you come at this novel - her determination to get to the bottom of the mystery, despite everyone around her seemingly determined to keep secrets is in opposition to the fact that, well, frankly anyone with an ounce of sanity would run as fast as they could and never look back, children or no children. I mean really, five previous governesses in a very short timescale wouldnt give you a clue that this was not the best place to hang your hat? Her somewhat romantic yearnings are typical of the era, yet she has some modern views which make her commendable.

You really do have everything you need here - mysterious caretaker, tight lipped locals, strange noises, genuinely creepy goings on at times - for a spectactularly fun to read ghost story. And thats exactly how I would describe it....

So over to you. Parody, Homage or a bit of both? No matter what, highly enjoyable.

Happy Reading Folks!
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Fans of ghostly Victoriana like Susan Hill's The Woman In Black will likely enjoy This House Is Haunted, a sinister tale with a resolute heroine from Irish author John Boyne.

This House Is Haunted has many of the classic hallmarks not just of the traditional ghost story but also of the Gothic novel, so much so that there are times when it is almost parodic, albeit darkly so - a young woman finds herself in peril in a rambling, fog-bound house; servants and locals are mysteriously tight-lipped; children are eerily precocious. There is sickness both mental and physical and Gaudlin, the haunted house of the title, becomes almost a character in its own right. What sets the book apart is not the plot and atmosphere - although these are both very well-executed - but the characters, in particular the narrator Eliza Caine.

The story begins with the death of Eliza's father, her only relative. Grieving and unsure how her job as a teacher in a genteel school for little girls will pay the rent, Eliza decides on impulse to leave London and take up a post as a governess to two children, Isabella and Eustace, in a large Norfolk manor house. No sooner has she disembarked from her train does Eliza have the uncanny sensation that someone is trying to push her from the platform, and when she arrives at Gaudlin to meet the children who are to be in her care, she continues to be plagued by similar mysterious and terrifying occurrences.

What's refreshing about Eliza is her curiosity, her determination and her rational analysis of her situation. Eliza is no hysterical heroine of a sensitive disposition, and her self-awareness is not just important to her handling of the mystery that surrounds Gaudlin, but also entertaining. Her independence, dry wit and forward-thinking views on certain social issues, if not necessarily likely for a woman living in the 1860s, elevate her above the average Victorian Gothic female protagonist, and her innate kindness is also an endearing counterpoint to her impressive courage. The children are also much more than the standard creepy kids of many a horror story, and the different ways in which they each deal with the challenges of their situation are fascinating and credible.

I can't say that I found many real surprises in This House Is Haunted, and there are perhaps attitudes and language in the book that I considered slightly anachronistic (plus, the Norfolk locals' turn of phrase doesn't seem much like anything I'd ever associate with East Anglia). Plus, there's no real room for the kind of tantalising ambiguity readers would find in, say, Sarah Waters' The Little Stranger or Henry James' tautly oppressive masterpiece of psychological horror The Turn Of The Screw. But honestly? None of this matters: it's an atmospheric ghost story with strong, solid characterisation and an expertly rendered, old school fireside chiller which I thoroughly enjoyed for its own sake. Excellent stuff.
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on 3 November 2015
This is probably the best 'ghost book' I have read.

I have come across many 'ghost stories' that have started strong and gradually became more and more far-fetched. My pet hate with these stories is the constant progression from eerily spooky to having 'monsters' introduced making the entire book seem ..silly. 'This House is Haunted' did not do that, instead it left me impressed and adequately spooked.

This book was pure class. This was a predictable story - but thoroughly exciting and so intelligent too - not to mention a fantastic ending.
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Ghost stories are hard to do well. It takes real skill to create the right atmosphere, and of course, what one person finds scary another may not. Overall, THIS HOUSE IS HAUNTED is an OK read.

The story is narrated by Eliza Caine; a young Victorian woman who has recently lost her father. Having no other family, she takes up a position as governess to two young siblings. From her very first night at her new home, Eliza suffers terrifying experiences, suggesting that all is not as it seems. In order to survive, Eliza must learn the secrets of her new family if she will ever be able to put things right.

Initially, THIS HOUSE IS HAUNTED starts out very promisingly. As a quick read as the nights start to get longer, it ticks a lot of boxes. Yet, for me, it wasn't quite what it promised to be. From about half way through, I didn't think that the suspense or the creepiness of the story was heightened at all. Eliza spends time trying to get answers from other characters, such as her predecessor, and I think this resulted in the story losing the immediate chills you want from a ghost story. Because she is hearing about things second hand, rather than experiencing them herself, it lost the impact.

So, as a quick read, I would recommend this book. It isn't the best ghost story that I have read, but it certainly wasn't the worst either.
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on 16 September 2013
This House is Haunted by John Boyne is a humorous love letter to Charles Dickens and the great Gothic horrors. When her father suddenly dies after attending a reading by Charles Dickens, Eliza impulsively answers an unusual ad for a governess. She plans on making the grand Westerley estate-along with its two orphaned children-her new home and family. But, the illusion cannot last, and the facade begins to crumble.

Set in a neglected mansion, This House is Haunted has all the major elements of the classic Gothic horrors: aloof villagers, vanishing servants, creepy children, a haunted attic, a cantankerous groundskeeper, madness and murder. It's populated with characters sporting Dickensian names and had plenty of orphans and tragic childhoods to spare. You don't have to be a fan of the genre to spot elements reminiscent of Jane Eyre, Turn of the Screw and even a Hound of Baskervilles.

John Boyne's This House is Haunted was a restrained but humorous read until the over-the-top grand finish-where it became just silly and melodramatic. With all its humor and classic elements, I do wonder if this was meant to be a parody. If it was meant to be a parody, it was a little too serious. If it was meant to be a tragic ghost story, it was a little too silly. It was quick and enjoyable, so even with the uncertainty, it's worth a read
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