Monday, September 21, 2009

"Even now, I can remember the first time I saw the house as clearly as if there were a video of it playing in my head."

I'm not sure where I heard of Lucie Whitehouse's The House at Midnight but it was familiar and when the book was available to me, I grabbed it. It promised some suspense and twists and turns and I needed something lighter and modern to read. I've been spending too much time in dreary Victorian England lately!

This novel is set in London and the English countryside. It focuses on a set of friends, a few years out of Oxford. Some have careers and others are still finding their way in life. When Lucas' beloved uncle commits suicide, he inherits Stoneborough Manor and eventually invites everyone out for a group reunion. The narrator is Joanna, a struggling journalist and Lucas' best friend. There's also a drug and alcohol fueled ad executive, a feminist social worker, a gay businessman and a fashion designer and her recent boyfriend. This is a hodge-podge group of people that never seemed to grow up and each time they gather, relationships become complicated, secrets are formed and throughout the book everything escalates to a far-fetched point.

I have to say that I wasn't in love with this book. None of the characters are really sympathetic and they all seem far too unsettled and flighty for near-thirty year olds with Oxford educations. Also, the tension keeps building and yet the climaxes (except the final one) are rather tame and dull. One big reveal was obvious quite a while before it happened. The final and most irritating thing was the fact that there was no true end to the story and we were left without closure in the middle of a pretty dramatic event. I didn't dislike this book but it wasn't all I had hoped it would be or perhaps just was led to believe it would be.

I read this at this time as an R.I.P. IV Challenge read. However, now that it's done, I'm not sure it should count. Everything that it promised-- a haunted house, ghosts of the past, etc. --were actually symbolic. There was murder and some "haunted pasts" and unsettled feelings but nothing really juicy. I thought I was getting a house with evil influence but all I ended up with were a bunch of immature, privileged brats who dug their own graves.

Moving on to more haunting homes,

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  1. You have some fixed ideas about Oxford grads. Why should they be any more mature or settled than anyone else? Not in my experience they weren't.
    Haven't read this, but might now. Sounds more like Peter's Friends.

  2. Meh. I think it should still count. Just because it didn't live up to your expectations as far as spookiness goes, you gave it a shot.

  3. sounds like it is a very dull book thanks for the insight. i dont think i will be reading this book anytime soon.

  4. Andrew - It's not Oxford specifically but any reputable university and it was really more the fact that these people are near thirty years old. Nine years is a long time for an entire group of friends to remain unsettled and unreliable. I suppose there are groups like that but it seemed a bit contrived that they all had convenient "issues".

    J.T. - I'm finally getting into some good RIP reads now and can't wait to post about them!

    asilverthorn - I think it was dull only because there were no sympathetic characters in the story so even the action felt non-climactic ... except for the ending which was too climactic.

  5. I hate when you're excited about a book and then it doesn't really payoff.

  6. I love your review of this! I read it last year too and pretty much had the same thoughts. I never did sit down and write up those thoughts on the blog. I think I was just too disappointed since I thought, like you, that I was getting something I didn't.