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3.4 out of 5 stars
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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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 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 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 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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VINE VOICEon 31 October 2012
I always enjoy Susan Hill's ghost and supernatural stories. They remind me so much of the late Victorian and early 20th century heyday of these kind of tales which are one of my reading loves. The author has such a talent for mimicking that literary style - it's where she is at her best as a writer in my opinion. Dolly certainly delivered on the atmosphere beloved of the genre - remote, misty atmosphere, cold house full of attics and cupboards, forbidding housekeeper, things that go rustle in the night, and a come uppance ending. But...I did think there were a lot of loose ends plus themes and nuances that could have been explored in more detail and would have added so much more richness to the reading experience. It felt at the end as if the author was working to a deadline, counting every word and thinking 'phew, that's done and dusted, now on to the next thing.' Really it's a long short story rather than a novella. I wanted to know more and experience more and although I did enjoy the tale, I feel a little bit short-changed in more ways than one.
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Dolly is one of Susan Hill's supernatural novellas. My copy is a nice little hardcover edition; I have matching editions of The Small Hand and Printer's Devil Court, also by Hill, and they're very nicely designed.

Image result for dolly susan hillDolly is the story of two cousins who are invited to spend the summer with their aunt in her isolated ancestral home. Edward and Leonora are the children of Dora and Violet, Aunt Kestrel's much younger, feuding sisters. Dora is now dead, leaving Edward an orphan, and international socialite Violet has been drifting from country to country for years, living in hotels with Leonora in tow, her lifestyle financed mainly by a succession of boyfriends. Part of the story takes place in the present, with Edward and Leonora returning to Iyot House after Aunt Kestrel's death, and the rest is set during their childhood stay there.

Susan Hill excels at building atmosphere and making places feel like characters in their own right. Iyot House, large and rambling with its isolated Fenland location, is every bit as damp and bleak as The Woman In Black's Eel Marsh House. The rain falls even throughout the summer and there's a general sense of decay about the place, with a flat, grey gloominess to the landscape.

Edward, from whose point of the view the story is told, is a polite, timid child and a polite, non-confrontational adult, constantly nervous but also stoical and innately kind. By contrast, Leonora is rude, spiteful, thoughtless and self-centred. Despite this, there are times when you will feel sorry for Leonora, spoilt but unloved by the mother she clearly idolises and resigned to a life of a succession of 'stepfathers'. Are Leonora's tantrums solely down to her upbringing, or is there someone or something at Iyot House that's driving her to worse and worse behaviour? Housekeeper Mrs Mullen seems to think so - does she have a point, or does she simply hate children?

I have some very minor issues with the sequence of events, as I think there is a slight flaw in the logic at one point early on in the story, but Dolly is certainly a very creepy book indeed, and by and large it's beautifully constructed. Although its cover calls it a ghost story, it isn't really a ghost story in a literal sense. It's is a supernatural horror story, but the 'haunting' isn't the traditional sort and to me, Dolly reads like a cross between MR James and one of Roald Dahl's Tales of the Unexpected.

It's short enough to read in one sitting (and I would recommend doing so), yet long enough to build the characters effectively and to lend it some extra nuance that might have been absent in a short story. It also leaves plenty of scope for the reader to decide why certain things might have been happened and who or what might be responsible; it doesn't spoonfeed the reader with clear explanations. This would make a great read for a rainy summer afternoon or a winter evening by the fire - and if the BBC don't adapt it as a ghost story for the Christmas schedules one day, they're really missing a trick.
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Edward Cayley, a solemn and sensitive orphan, is sent to spend the summer with his Aunt Kestral at her lonely, forbidding home Iyot House, where he first meets his cousin Leonora, a spoiled, wilful young girl with a nasty temper. Strange events occur centred on an unwanted doll of Leonora's, which are never explained and eventually forgotten. Years later the two cousins return to Iyot House to find the abandoned doll is not finished with them yet...

This is another of Susan Hill's ghost stories, published in attractive hardback editions and short enough to finish in an afternoon. As usual Hill creates a wonderfully atmospheric setting; here it's the isolated Iyot House, surrounded by the bleak beauty of the fens, with its dark attics and unnerving noises. This is an old fashioned, subtle ghost story, which evokes a growing sense of unease and dread rather than attempting gruesome shocks. For most of the story it succeeds very well; the cousins' childhood experiences raised the hairs on the back of my neck several times.

Unfortunately, as with several of Susan Hill's other recent ghost stories, the final part of the book is something of a let-down. Hill seems to have a problem knowing how to bring events to a suitable, satisfying conclusion, and as a result the plot begins to take rather unconvincing and unbelievable turns. That may sound an odd thing to say considering the supernatural subject matter, but even a ghost story needs some grounding in reality. There is a sojourn in Prague which felt largely pointless, there are hard-to-swallow coincidences and too much convenient forgetfulness on the part of Edward and Leonora, leading to a rather disappointing climax.

It's a shame that such an atmospheric start isn't followed through, but the book is still entertaining enough - a pleasantly spooky way to pass a couple of hours on a wintry evening. Nevertheless, I finished it with a feeling that it could have been so much more satisfying with a stronger final act.
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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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on 4 November 2014
I have never read a Susan Hill novel before and tried this on a balance of reviews below. It is easily the most souless book I have read.
It was not really creepy just uneasy and disconnected. The style of writing suggests the story is set long ago and I was surprised to discover it was more recent...
The characters were formulaic, empty shells that never disconnected and shallow where they.
I thought the doll thing was just an 'extra' based on and to incite a Picture of Dorian Gray concept but really in the end was a waste of time.
I read it all because I wondered if the best was yet to come and the ending would justify the means and it wasn't a very long book.
Won't bother with her novels again.
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