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on 11 October 2017
This House is Haunted is set in 1867, when Eliza Caine takes the post of governess at Gaudlin Hall. She should have suspected something was not quite right when she learned that the advert for the job was placed by the previous governess, not the master of the house. And that the other woman is so keen to hightail it out of there, she literally passes Eliza on the train platform on her way back to London.

In the tradition of all the best ghost stories, as soon as Eliza tells anyone where she works they look shifty and quickly change the subject. The house is huge, gothic, and very creepy. It appears to run without any servants and there is no sign of any other adult - just two very strange young children. What happened to the five other governesses before her? And why does she get the impression that someone really, really doesn't want her there?

I absolutely loved this book. It's brilliantly written, in the style of a traditional Victorian ghost story, but ever-so-slightly tongue-in-cheek. I adored Eliza, particularly her dry sense of humour and her ability to stand up to all those (male) authority figures who try to tell her she's imagining things when she tells them, 'This house is haunted'.

If you've read a lot ghost stories it won't be too hard to work out how it all ends, but it didn't spoil my enjoyment. Recommended, particularly to fans of Susan Hill and stories such as The Woman in Black. One of my favourite books this year!
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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.
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on 31 May 2016
After the death of her father Eliza Caine moves to Norfolk to be governess to two children at Gaudlin Hall, but from the moment she steps off of the train you begin to wonder what she has signed up for.

Gaudlin Hall is clearly a house where something very wrong has happened and Eliza is certainly not made welcome by its otherworldly inhabitant.
The book follows Eliza’s attempts to unravel the events that led to the house being haunted and the truth is slowly and gradually revealed as she befriends and talks to some of the residents of the village who knew the family before tragedy struck.

I really enjoyed this book, I liked the pace of it and was intrigued as to what dark and sinister secrets the house held and how Eliza would cope with her time there. It's spooky and unsettling in places, but not scary as such and it kept me gripped from start to finish.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 13 August 2013
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 7 January 2015
I did enjoy 'This House is Haunted' in many ways, the story was interesting, it did engage me and I did want to find out how it would end. However, I found myself not connecting to the main character/narrator Eliza Caine at all, she was likeable and I felt that she coped with what was happening to her as well as could be expected but the majority of the conversations she had seem to lead to her 'throwing her hands in the air' but in all fairness she had a good reason.

The children of the story Isabella & Eustace were stronger characters especially Isabella, who is a very confident girl who intimidates Eliza, while Eustace is confused by all the changes in his life and wants to be loved.

The intensity of the story is good to read as secrets are revealed and Eliza faces the unknown.

Parts of the story reminded me of 'The Turn of the Screw' by Henry James which did not put me off as much as I thought it would, 'The Turn of the Screw' is a stronger story.

The ending was expected and slightly disappointing.

All in all, a decent ghost story.
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on 24 January 2016
So you think you recognise the author name John Boyne? Then if you said author of ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’ you would be absolutely right.

This story is very different, in my mind not even closely on a par with the aforementioned. For me it was a mildly scary ghost story set in the mid-1800s. Rather predictable at times but then again many ghost stories are.

Enjoyable if classic ghost stories are thing? At times, for me it had a hint of ‘The Woman in Black’ by Susan Hill within its pages but not as scary. Due to its as I feel, predictability I gave it a 3 star rating.
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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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on 15 April 2014
Set in 1867, the story in This House is Haunted focuses on Eliza Caine, a young woman who moves to Norfolk to take up a post as a governess to two children. After the grief of losing her father, Eliza decides to have a fresh start. However, no sooner has Eliza arrived at Gaudlin Hall, she discovers that things are not what she expected. Eliza finds herself involved with a mysterious family and living in a creepy hall that holds many secrets.
This is a good old fashioned ghost story with a strong central character and an atmospheric setting. The plot unfolds steadily and there's enough tension and intrigue to keep the story engaging all the way through. It's also well written.
All in all, this is a very enjoyable read.
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on 10 March 2014
I really enjoyed being taken back to Dickens era and felt comfortable with the language and conversions of the characters, the frustrations of Eliza sex preventing her to be considered rational was written with an air of fact and without apology, so I read without the urge to huff and puff my way through the of male characters.

I particularly liked Santina and her primal need to protect her children against the world's ugliness that pregnancy and birth clearly brought back to haunt her of her own pain, The background of Eliza's own childhood loss of mother with a father who did love and protect her the polar opposite to Sabrina was written with a sense of there but for the grace of God....

Sadly I was not surprised by the end so a little predictable, however this was my first John Boyne
book which I heard John promoting on radio4 a while ago I was not disappointed and look forward to reading more of his books
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on 19 April 2016
Yes, well of course this was written by John Boyne so it was bound to be good, for me anyway. The writing style is excellent with good flow and grammar (which can't be said for all ghost story books), but what I particularly liked is that there was no disappointing ending; it was great right up to the last page. Well worth a read and pleasantly different from the usual genre.
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