This one just didn't do it for me. I was never a big fan of V.C. Andrews-style incest-y plots, and this is that kind of book, crossed with a politicalThis one just didn't do it for me. I was never a big fan of V.C. Andrews-style incest-y plots, and this is that kind of book, crossed with a political novel (sort of). I lost interest about half-way through, and skimmed the rest. Since I almost NEVER skim books, that is a measure of how meh I was feeling about it. This is the only book of Sarah Rayne's that's left me so underwhelmed, and all I can suggest is to read something else by this author. Try her Michael Flint and Nell West series....more
I enjoyed this book. Sarah Rayne has taken a bit of a throw-in-the-kitchen-sink approach to writing a gothic novel — she's got a haunted house, an insI enjoyed this book. Sarah Rayne has taken a bit of a throw-in-the-kitchen-sink approach to writing a gothic novel — she's got a haunted house, an insane nun, a ghost, a reporter, a lot of sex, a late Victorian feminist and her Dickensian author lover, child prostitution, creepy nursery rhymes and probably some things I'm forgetting. Yes, this is the sort of book where people get thrown down wells. With all that going on, it's almost surprising that it all fits together so well. Rayne is a very good writer. She owes me an extra eight hours of sleep, on account of that's what I gave up to finish her book....more
This book reminded me of Maggie Prince's "The House on Hound Hill" and Penelope Lively's "The Ghost of Thomas Kempe" because of the similarity in plotThis book reminded me of Maggie Prince's "The House on Hound Hill" and Penelope Lively's "The Ghost of Thomas Kempe" because of the similarity in plot and atmosphere, and also the historical period of the respective ghosts. One of the things that stood out for me was how independent the children are in this book. It is hard to imagine a modern preteen casually assuming nobody would pick her up at the airport, catching several buses, and making her way to the right house! I think that was meant to show that Carol was unusually independent even for the 70s, but today it would trigger an Amber Alert (or the English equivalent), I suspect.
Carol has come to visit her aunt and uncle in England, and slowly becomes friends with their son Bruce, as she discovers that their 17th century house is haunted. Carol and Bruce unravel the mystery by deduction, luck, and hauling a lot of masonry in the basement.
The prickly relationship between Bruce and has dad is handled well. When Carol and Bruce are talking with the priest about their ghosts, and Bruce is reluctant to tell his skeptic historian father about them, the priest says, rather directly, "Your father has a clear, sensible mind and a generous personality. I think you could hurt him very deeply if you wanted to." Bruce says, "What makes you think I want that?" and the priest replies, "Because you do hurt him."...more
Fantastic book about a girl whose parents have recently split moving into a new house with something...odd about it. The girl, Emily, feels out of plaFantastic book about a girl whose parents have recently split moving into a new house with something...odd about it. The girl, Emily, feels out of place, caught between friends she hasn't made yet and losing her old ones, and her emotions gradually lead her to see images of the past, the Great Plague of 1665, imprinted on the present. And then the opposite happens and she finds herself in 1665 in the middle of a terrifying situation.
The book is written entirely in the present tense, which I found annoying for about three seconds and then I stopped noticing it because the author uses the technique so skillfully. It makes it seem like Emily is perpetually stunned by everything that's happening to her, and it's all going down much too fast. Since that was clearly the author's intent, it works.
There are two other fantastic books that this one reminds me of. One is "The Ghost of Thomas Kempe" by Penelope Lively, and the other is "Black Harvest" by Ann Cheetham or Ann Pilling (Ann has two pen names and you can find editions of that book under either). They share a similarity in plot — somehow the past gets involved with the present — and also that in both of them, the main character is dealing with some major life issues that are given context or illuminated by dealing with the ghost problem. If you've enjoyed either of those books, you'll probably like this one, and vice versa....more
This is one of the best books I have ever read. The ending is both wistful and sad and inevitable. Penelope repeatedly slips back in time at her familThis is one of the best books I have ever read. The ending is both wistful and sad and inevitable. Penelope repeatedly slips back in time at her family's ancient country farm, Thackers, to the 1580s and then back to her present, 1906-08. Penelope's ancestors were servants to the Babingtons, who are fundamentally nice people (with a few exceptions). She becomes part of their family, in the 16th century, accepted as a sort of cousin who nobody can quite place and who tends to vanish without notice. The eldest Babington son, Anthony, is deeply involved in a plot to spirit Mary, Queen of Scots out of England to France. Mary is being held prisoner in the farm next to Thackers and Anthony is excavating a tunnel. Penelope knows from the outset that he doesn't succeed, that he eventually dies, but Penelope finds she can't make big changes to history. (This also has the effect of ridding the book of time travel paradoxes.) She can change how people feel about events but not the events themselves. This becomes the true subject of the book: how people feel about history as they are living it, and later looking backward. The reader and Penelope and the Babingtons know how it will end. They hope otherwise, but they know. Anthony knows he is doomed but he tries to save Queen Mary anyway, because he loves her. Penelope knows she can't save them but she keeps returning because she loves the Babingtons. And the house, Thackers, is always there.
Side note: If you love old houses, this ia a book you should read....more
I really enjoyed The Historian despite the somewhat lame ending. My favorite part of ghost stories is always the trip to the library, and this book isI really enjoyed The Historian despite the somewhat lame ending. My favorite part of ghost stories is always the trip to the library, and this book is basically one big long library trip. The story is also undeniably creepy. Every person they meet seems to have something to do with Vlad, whether for or against, so the suspense comes from never knowing if someone will betray or help....more
This book is very similar to Josephine Tey's "Daughter of Time." A wealthy man is recovering from a heart attack in his new (to him) but otherwise extThis book is very similar to Josephine Tey's "Daughter of Time." A wealthy man is recovering from a heart attack in his new (to him) but otherwise extremely old house. He discovers a skeleton in a priest's hole, and slowly researches how it ended up there. I've gone and made it sound all dry, but really it's not — Aird did a brilliant job at atmosphere in this book. She slowly generates tension and makes the historical characters alive as we learn about them. If your favorite part of a traditional ghost story is the inevitable trip to the library, you should read this....more
These are folk stories, somewhere between fact and fiction, from the region of East Anglia, England. Many are ghost stories. You can't take them for lThese are folk stories, somewhere between fact and fiction, from the region of East Anglia, England. Many are ghost stories. You can't take them for literal truth, but often the details preserve folk customs that have died out. This book is now increasingly rare, and the sequel (which is even better), "More Tales from the Fens" is even rarer. I hope someone preserves and reprints these books one day, or the information will be lost....more