My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I am a big fan of Susan Hill. Her horror stories are incredible. Her story “Black Sheep” (which is not a horror story) is probably one of the best novellas I have ever read. In that vein, it probably seems like I am giving this book a poor score and it’s not that, it’s just so many of her other books are so much better…that this one felt a little flat and a little disappointing.
Firstly, this book is a real slow burner. Susan Hill’s writing is great but the pace in this novel is just so painfully slow. Stuff just takes a long time to happen. When it gets going there are creepy moments that Hill does best, it just takes its time to build up. Here is a sneaky little extract:
“The doll cried for a fourth night and this time he climbed up to the shelf and took it down. It lay in its box, stiff and still, looking like a body in a coffin. And realising that, he knew what he should do.”
The story primarily follows Edward, an orphaned little boy sent to live with his elderly aunt. His spoilt cousin Leonora also stays at the house. Edward spends most of his time torn between wishing to play with his intimidating cousin and staying out of her way in case she is in one of her moods. Then his cousin gets a gift of a doll, when the doll is not the beautiful doll she dreams of Leonora’s attitude goes from bad to worse. At the same time, strange things happen around the house. When Edward returns as an adult following his aunt’s death he is reminded of several things he had tried to forget.
This book really does have all the ingredients for a great horror story; creepy house in the middle of nowhere, elderly isolated aunt, orphan unwanted child and of course the doll. Whilst there where some really enjoyable moments like the quote above the overall effect of the story just didn’t leave me thrilled.
If you have read Susan Hill’s other works this probably isn’t going to be a great read for you. However, if you are new to Susan Hill you will probably enjoy this introduction to her writing.
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