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This House is Haunted by John Boyne

The gothic thriller is not a genre that any of us would usually choose but, in the main we found this very readable and well-written and enjoyed it more than we thought we would. The Dickensian scenes and descriptions were well written and atmospheric, captured the time well and immersed the reader in that world. Early encounters with the ‘presence’ were creepier than the more extreme incidents later in the book, which were all a bit too far-fetched and more difficult to believe in. That said, we did feel scared for Eliza and wanted to keep reading. Credibility was added with some of the strange incidents and behaviours having more rational explanations, e.g the disappearing housekeeper, and the backstory to the mother’s obsessive protective behaviour around her children. It was all a little predictable that the violent and dramatic events at the hall wouldn’t quite be the end of it all. A fairly simple but effective story – not hugely original (echoes of Jane Eyre) but well written. There were a couple of elements that we didn’t like – the relationship between Eliza and Mr Raisin was a bit odd and didn’t really add anything to the plot or the character development; the authors insistence that Eliza wasn’t ‘a handsome woman’ which was annoying and without purpose; the fact that no-one seemed to think that three governesses in a row coming to an untimely end was a bit strange (others reviewers have suggested that that might have been an affectionate dig at the genre?). Between us we have read a variety of John Boyne’s other novels which we enjoyed more.


For one of our group this was very predictable and disappointing, as, although well-written, the novel was too similar to The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, for there to be any surprises at all.

Range 1 – 7.5
Overall score: 5.8

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