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No chiller but an enjoyable read.
on 29 December 2014
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.