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4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
This House is Haunted
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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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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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Quite a masterclass in story telling.
Utterly engrossing from beginning to end.
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on 30 March 2017
Recommended this to a friend and she loved it too. Get a copy, you won't be disappointed.
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on 3 October 2017
I don't usually read this type of book but I found this one compelling reading don't read it in bed in the dark.
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on 16 May 2017
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on 30 March 2017
This book is an easy read, with a few twist. A little hard to put down as 'you' want to know the outcome.
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on 24 May 2013
Incredible, chilling, frightening and heart warming. This book questions faith, outlines love, generosity and good will, it explores the human nature and what we believe, cannot possibly believe. Selfishness is a word that we cannot help but question but goodness is a word that is completely unquestionable. A fantastically well written book. Warning: do not read this book at night!
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on 17 June 2013
Bought this second John Boyne book for my husband and he said it was a good read and would buy more of this authors books.
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