Bree T's Reviews > The House at Midnight

The House at Midnight by Lucie Whitehouse
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Oct 12, 11

bookshelves: gothic, mystery, suspense
Read from September 18 to 19, 2011 — I own a copy

Lucas inherits the palatial country pile Stoneborough Manor from his uncle Patrick, who was like a father to him. He thinks that it would be a great place for he and his college friends to spend the weekends and summers, drinking wine, listening to music and generally relaxing away from their city jobs. At first the weekends are fun, everyone gets along and enjoys themselves… but gradually it all starts to unravel.

Firstly Lucas and Joanna finally get together after what is close to 10 years of dancing around it but things are not off to a good start when Lucas decides to quit his job in the city as a lawyer and move to Stonesborough full time with Danny, who has just been sacked from his high powered advertising job for doing Coke in the toilets. Jo is apprehensive about the move – she knows that Lucas has also inherited a pile of money to go with the country pile so she can see Danny bleeding him dry now that he will no longer be working. Lucas wants to write and Danny make films but what they will mostly be doing is drinking – drinking exorbitant amounts. Lucas also develops an unhealthy obsession with some cine films he finds in his late uncle’s office which shows his uncle and his eclectic artistic circle of friends spending time at Stonesborough when they were all about Lucas’s age.

Suddenly the trips to the country aren’t as fun anymore. Tensions are running high as Danny attempts to exert influence over Lucas and oust Jo as the most important person in Lucas’s life. Jo finds her attention diverted elsewhere and begins to wonder if this relationship with Lucas is really going to work with her in the City and him down here in isolation, which is affecting his personality. Add in the problems with Danny and Jo starts to feel like she doesn’t want to be a huge part of this anymore. Unfortunately for her, Lucas isn’t going to give her up lightly – his hold on her will extend long past the natural length of her relationship with him. Tied by the bonds of a decade long friendship, Jo will find it hard to turn her back on Lucas completely, even after he totally changes. And the once tight knit group of friends will splinter and break apart.

The House At Midnight is billed as a bit of a gothic piece but to be honest, the atmosphere was never really ‘there’ for me. The big imposing sort of house isn’t really given the character it should, nor are the descriptions detailed enough to really enable me to be able to picture it clearly. The references to the ‘pulse’ of the house, which appears to be something only Jo can hear/feel, are vague and don’t flesh out the house itself as a real living, breathing piece of the novel.

The protagonist Jo frustrated me. The background of her friendship with Lucas is briefly described as they move forward into a relationship but as a reader, you don’t get a chance to even assess them as a couple before they are falling apart and Jo is moving towards a character that she herself doesn’t even know. She made choice that annoyed me, so much so that a couple of times I had to put this book down and take a few deep breaths. When someone is emotionally manipulating, you can walk away. She was in London. Lucas was at the house, hours away. I never felt like his hold over Jo was enough to make her do the things she did, to keep going to the house. And it seemed even more ridiculous that the man she dated after Lucas also chose to continue going with her. It was ludicrous and not at all believable.

But my biggest problem is with the ending. If you spend half your book building up to something sinister, please don’t have it all occur “off screen” while we’re with some other character who turns out to not be involved in the final climax/showdown. That’s just insulting to the reader who has invested so much of their time in reading your story only to get to the end and find out that everything interesting has happened without the reader actually being an active part of it. I find that incredibly off putting in a book and it always taints my view of it.

The House At Midnight started off really promising – I enjoyed the first few chapters that introduced the characters and the house and gave us some background information on Lucas’ uncle and his eclectic circle of friends. Their weekends/summer spent at the house were mirrored by Lucas and his friends and it looked like it might be a nice little history repeating story line but then I just got bogged down in drama and unlikable characters. And drinking. Way too much drinking. It was boring, reading about this spoiled rich boy Lucas and all his big inheritance money drinking bottles of expensive wine and champagne. I don’t find that sort of lifestyle interesting at all. I find it needlessly extravagant and self-indulgent and it makes me want to stop reading.
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