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3.4 out of 5 stars152
3.4 out of 5 stars
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on 25 December 2012
No spoilers, but for me the first half of this book was deliciously creepy. Then, when it came to the crux of the action, I felt like Hill wasn't sure what she wanted to do. I was really disappointed with how randomly it was all wrapped up, and some of the devices used to bring about the conclusion made very little sense, I thought. The first half is a match for Woman in Black, but the book as a whole didn't do it for me.
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on 8 March 2013
Very disappointed. Frankly, I think the whole idea behind this book would have been rejected by my school English teacher as being too predictable and slightly juvenile if submitted by one of her students.

Generally, I love Susan Hill and I don't want to be too critical of someone that wrote the spine chilling 'Woman in Black'. However, this book was not much more than a short story and took me less than 2 hours to read (which means the price isn't justified) and didn't make sense. I actually came on here to read some reviews because I thought I must be missing something, but it seems I wasn't.

Apart from just not being scary (and it doesn't take a lot to scare me), I found it quite illogical. Aunt Kestrel is a very sympathetic and understanding character who seems equipped to understand Leonora even when she is being quite vile. However, she then decides to punish her from beyond the grave. Not only does she punish her but her daughter who is entirely innocent of any wrongdoing. From there, Edward (a bit of a boring drip, reminiscent of the main character in 'The Woman in Black') is then also punished as is his child. It just doesn't fit in with the character of Aunt Kestrel.

The whole chapter set in Prague is a strange add-on which seems to have been contrived entirely to enable Hill to pad out the novel and put and end to it. Probably the best and only vaguely creepy part was in the toy shop and this could definitely have been explored more. Surely Hill could have made a bit more of the sinister Mrs Mullen or added some back-history to the house, which would have made it more interesting and potentially scarier.

Despite all this, it was a reasonably enjoyable read for the short period that it lasted!
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 3 October 2012
A wonderfully creepy story, which has arrived just in time for Halloween, Susan Hill's latest novella 'Dolly' is set in the damp and desolate landscape of the English Fens. Orphan Edward Caley, a small, anxious and polite young boy is sent to spend part of the summer holidays with his elderly spinster Aunt Kestrel, in her large, decaying home, Iyot House. Arriving shortly after Edward is his cousin, Leonora, a striking red-haired, spoilt and wilful young girl, who is determined to get her own way regardless of the consequences. Thrown together in desolate surroundings, Edward enters into a uneasy alliance with his cousin, but when Leonora's birthday wish for a beautiful Indian doll is not fulfilled, the rage she unleashes is so fierce and shocking, that it has an unsettling effect on poor Edward for years afterwards. Many years later when Leonora and Edward are the only surviving members of their family, they both return to Iyot Lock for the reading of a will, and it is only now that the frightening consequences of Leonora's act of fury really begin to haunt them...

Very atmospheric, with some wonderful descriptions of landscape and setting, this competently crafted story makes for an absorbing, creepy and unsettling read. One to be read and enjoyed on a chilly evening in front of the fire, while the shivers run up and down your spine.

4 Stars.

Note: This is a very slim novel containing 153 pages - so easily readable in one sitting.
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on 11 January 2013
This story doesn't really amount to much and is not really that involving. The characterisation is poor and the double denouements are rather silly - she's done "Oh dear, harm's come to children!" more effectively elsewhere and perhaps because of this, its use here seems rather crass. I liked the descriptions of the Fens but, again, they're better in The Woman in Black and this comparison is inevitable because, blimey fancy that, she takes us to an isolated crumbling graveyard and an isolated house with dodgy electrics.
This isn't the first time that Hill's cobbled something together for Christmas but this one seems particularly undercooked.
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on 8 October 2012
I always enjoy Susan Hill's ghost stories. `Dolly' her latest novella does not in any way disappoint. When it arrived last Friday my intention was to save it to read over the Christmas period, but I had to read it!
The story is very spooky and gripping, a good old fashioned ghost story which I read in about two hours.
The writing is beautifully crafted and taut. It is narrated in the first person by Edward who tells of a childhood encounter with his spoilt and spiteful cousin Leonora. What happens to the two cousins while they stay with their aunt has terrible consequences on both their adult lives. I particularly liked the descriptions of the eerie but beautiful fenland countryside. I could almost feel the wind rattling the house and the storm as the children sleep in their remote rooms up in the attic. This will appeal to anyone who wants a spooky tale for the short winter evenings
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on 10 January 2014
Susan Hill is such a good writer I can only assume this is a rare lapse. I suppose if you're first attempt at a Victorian ghost story is a classic ("The Woman in Black") then you have set yourself an almost impossible standard. "Dolly" is not scary, uses the cliched trope of a doll as the agent of the characters' misfortune, makes a howling error in continuity half way through when the narrator is demoted from being the son of the second born daughter in the family to that of the youngest, and then makes the benign and caring Aunt Kestrel into someone who wishes evil on her nephew and niece. The evil isn't all that original either. This is a poor attempt at a ghost story, save you're money and buy one of Susan Hill's excellent early novels like "The Bird of Night" or "Strange Meeting"
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on 11 November 2013
I've heard good things about Susan Hill and looked forward to reading this, but found it disappointing. I was struck firstly by the rushed nature of much of her writing, and bad editing - the same word appearing repeatedly in a paragraph, clunky sentences. And though I was quite gripped by the book's quick pace, I found the characters one-dimensional and the story predictable. The denouement is laughably bad, and though Hill is good at building atmosphere and suspense, I didn't find the story remotely scary. Hill is obviously a dab hand at this kind of horror genre, but Dolly had the feel of a book written quickly and sloppily. The only plus for me was that I read it in a couple of hours.
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on 12 October 2013
I have read several of Susan Hill's novels and enjoyed them more than this one. Although well written and with beautiful imagery of the Fens making for a good atmospheric setting this story simply did not scare me. The Small Hand and The Woman in Black lingered long in my memory because of the spine chilling horror and suspense both stories delivered in spades. Dolly lacked this entirely and unfortunately the ending becomes predicable from about three quarters of the way through the story.
Not something I would read again.
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on 1 November 2012
An atmospheric gothic type tale written in true Susan Hill style. An orphaned boy, quiet and anxious Edward is sent to his aunt's creepy house for the summer in the bleak flat Fens. He is introduced to spoilt Leonora, a cousin of a similar age who has been sent there begrudgingly from overseas for company for him. Leonora and Edward are two very contrasting characters and after one of Leonora's particularly nasty tantrums, strange things start to happen.

The scene setting as always with Susan Hill's books was beautifully done and I read the first half with anticipation of what was to come, but as it continued I really didn't find it particularly scary or chilling and I thought the ending seemed rushed and convenient. I enjoy Susan Hill's style of writing but the second half of this book disappointed me.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 2 December 2013
I picked up "Dolly" from the library before short flight, and finished it in one sitting - what can I say, I loved (no, strike that) I liked this book a lot. The building up was perfect. Children, old dump houses with attics, unexplained reflection in the black water, and creepy dolls - and the perfect fast pace of the narrative transported me to the eerie world, that is actually not so far away from where we are now. The story takes place in the not so distant past, perhaps even touching on the present, therefore multiplying feelings of dread and anxiety - I don't know about you, but it's oh so easy to brush away some "archaic" ghost story of the nineteenth century.

The story is too short to be giving away anything of the narrative, you just have to read it! And (as I find quite usual with Susan Hill), most of the things are left unexplained. "Dolly" did not deliver spine shivers, but it engrossed me, charmed me and captivated me, especially the first half of the book, and I can say this: yes, the ending is weak, there are no major chills, but the book is so pleasurable to read (most of the time!), that for the love of reading - check it out!
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