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The Blank Wall

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  542 ratings  ·  99 reviews
A suburban matron, harassed by wartime domestic problems - her husband is overseas - finds herself implicated in the murder of her young daughter's extremely unattractive beau. This novel is about maternal love and about the heroine's relationship with those around her, especially her children and her maid.
Paperback, 231 pages
Published June 22nd 2003 by Persephone Books (first published 1947)
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Average rating 3.82  · 
Rating details
 ·  542 ratings  ·  99 reviews


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Toby
Feb 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: black-as-night
“Her husband and her children did not consider her beyond criticism. She belonged to them; whatever she did affected them; their pride, their good name in the world lay in her hands. They would give her love, protection, even a sort of homage, but in return for that she must be what they wanted and needed her to be.”

Raymond Chandler once referred to Ms Sanxay Holding as the greatest suspense writer of them all and yet today she is largely forgotten, in fact outside of America she was hardly know
...more
Tania
Feb 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: persephone
A very compelling tale of an ordinary housewife in extraordinary circumstances and the lengths she will go to, to protect her family.

Set during WW2. Lucia is an ordinary housewife with two teenage children. When her daughter starts seeing a very unsavoury man, Lucia tries, without the support of her husband who is in the Navy and overseas, to warn the young man off. Things go badly wrong and she finds herself mixed up with criminal gangs, murder and blackmail. We, and she learn what she is capa
...more
Cathy DuPont
Mar 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Cathy by: Toby
I'm sure it was Tfitoby but I was wa-wa-ing about how no women write hard-boiled and/or noir and Tfitoby said "have you read Elizabeth Holding?"

No, I had never heard of her but she got Raymond Chandler's stamp of approval so told him I'll try her.

Great advice from a great guy (not Chandler but Tfitoby.)

Raymond Chandler said "For my money she's the top suspense writer of them all. She doesn't pour it on and make you feel irritated. Her characters are wonderful; and she has a sort of inner calm
...more
Mary
Jan 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
What a mother will do to protect her family after her Daughters beau is killed.
Loved this mystery which had twists and turns .
The golden age of the detective novel.
Beautifully written .
Was made into a film in 1949 called The Reckless Moment.
So glad that Persephone have republished it.
Mariel
Apr 02, 2014 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: the guilty always punished
Recommended to Mariel by: the innocent always spared
She did not look flustered and frightened now. It was true that she was pale, her hair a little disordered, but there was something in her face she had not seen in it before, a sorrowful and quiet beauty. That's how I look to him, she thought.

There was a film version made of this called The Deep End. I didn't make the connection until later. I'd seen it when it came out, thought it kabuki hysteria, really. In We Need to Talk About Kevin Tilda Swinton coffin nails being in another person's this i
...more
Nancy Oakes
Ah. This is a book I really liked. It's one of those well-written, intelligent books I crave, where yes, there is a crime, but the people in this book are the focus, rather than the crime. It is a slow-burning, thinking person's book that hit me like a ton of bricks at the end. And it's really, really good.

I consider myself quite lucky to have found this novel because it's so nicely done I couldn't stop reading it once I'd picked it up. It is not what I'd call a typical suspense/crime novel, so
...more
Jon
Apr 26, 2011 rated it liked it
A suspense novel written by a now-nearly-forgotten writer who was greatly admired by both Alfred Hitchcock and Raymond Chandler. I look over the Goodreads reviews and find that most people were interested by the same thing I was--the "dated" quality of the main character's preoccupations and motives. As a thriller it is only average, if that; but as a window on how a real upper-middle-class housewife during WWII might handle the sudden disruption of her carefully maintained world, it is extremel ...more
Hol
Jul 16, 2008 added it
Recommended to Hol by: the Persephone Books catalogue
This novel is not mystery but suspense, somewhat like those by Patricia Highsmith and her ilk; within the first dozen pages, a corpse is accidentally produced, and so the ball gets rolling. Unlike Highsmith’s books, however, in which the typical protagonist is an anxiety-ridden, marginally employed man, The Blank Wall stars an otherwise respectable housewife, Lucia, who’s running the house while her husband serves in World War II. Lucia applies her well-honed problem-solving skills to each intra ...more
Callum McLaughlin
Mar 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is one of those crime books in which the focus of the story is, in many ways, not actually the crime itself. Instead, Elisabeth Sanxay Holding uses the structure of a crime story, and the pressure-pot situation of trying to cover up said crime, to examine the mental capacity of her central character. It's not about 'whodunnit'; it's about the ripple effect and the emotional strain of getting yourself tangled up in a web of lies.

Don't get me wrong, the plot itself is well thought-out; concis
...more
Jaksen
Oct 15, 2017 rated it it was ok
Another in my new quest to read all things crime noir, set in the 40's and 50's. However this one was kind of a clunking dud.

A woman is witness to something awful, then through a series of very-contrived maneuvers, done in the attempt to 'protect her family,' she makes the awful even more awful.

And btw, her family is horrible. Hideous. (I'd run away, have a mad affair and start a new family if I was her).

As for her relationship with certain 'mob-like' characters? They seem like a series of sce
...more
Fiona MacDonald
I read this in one single sitting. It was a wonderful read, and after researching it more I have discovered it was made into a film in the 1940s called 'The Reckless Moment' with James Mason that I have seen numerous times and never twigged!!
Lucia is a plain, unexciting housewife with 2 children (Beatrice and David) and a husband at the other side of the world who she can only contact by letter.
After unearthing an affair between her daughter and a married man named Ted, Lucia is placed in a ter
...more
Mark
Mar 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
As part of my quest this year to read forgotten classics, one list put me on to Elisabeth Sanxay Holding, whom Raymond Chandler said was the top suspense writer in America in the 30s and 40s.

The Blank Wall is one of her most famous books and has been made into two movies, the most recent with Tilda Swinton. It is not so much a whodunit as a psychological exploration of how one woman's domestically tranquil life is shattered by the impulsive actions of her 17-year-old daughter, and all the decisi
...more
Carla Remy
Aug 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Parts were good, but I for one can't say that I loved this. Just not the right time for it I suppose. Definitely a woman's thriller, a mother is the main character. It just seemed to me that so much effort in the book is made by an innocent person to cover a crime. I mean, I know it was the late 1940s, but still. Maybe just call the police.
Kirsty
Jun 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: june-2017
I adored Sanxay Holding's The Innocent Mrs. Duff, and was very much looking forward to The Blank Wall, her more famous novel. It demonstrates the length that one woman is willing to go to in order to protect her family. To anyone familiar with Sanxay Holding's work, it will come as no surprise that the whole is incredibly well written, and excellently paced. I didn't quite enjoy it as much as the former due to the slightly predictable ending, but it is still a wonderful novel, which I would very ...more
Mela
What was that? I am trying to match a genre. Obviously mystery/crime, but putting a period here would be like naming champagne just alcohol or coconut cake with chocolate sauce just something sweet.

So it was a charming mix of mystery/crime, love story, British wit, psychological study of human and society - all with a rather original style of writing/storytelling. Perhaps it doesn't sound much original but it really was. I don't know how to explain it. I was simply charmed. If I had known only s
...more
Ali
Jan 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This Persephone book no. 42 was first published in 1942 – and is set just outside of New York. A middle aged women – Lucia gets herself horribly mixed up with the concealment of a death while trying to protect her 17 year old daughter’s reputation. I enjoyed this little suspense novel, although there were elements of the plot that I was unconvinced were realistic – of course the novel was written in a different time, and people may have acted in ways which to our modern thinking seems bizarre. F ...more
Stephanie
Oct 14, 2015 rated it liked it
This book ended up being really fun! Excited to have finally read my first Persephone :)
Corianne Oosterbaan
Sep 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Picked up this book in the Persephone Bookshop in London. They publish lots of older, forgotten fiction, especially women writers. I can only urge you to take a look when you encounter one of their grey books - they have a great selection.

The Blank Wall is a very intriguing noir thriller, published in the late 40s originally. It was very well written and un-put-downable. Won't go into the story, you'll have to read for yourself ;) that's is all I'll say!
Corey
Oct 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think this is what they mean when they say a page-turner. For Patricia Highsmith fans.
John
Dec 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I read this as part of a double volume (ISBN 9780897333665) with the same author's The Innocent Mrs. Duff. I made notes here on the latter novel a couple of weeks ago; I've now read The Blank Wall.

As I wrote on GoodReads, I enjoyed The Innocent Mrs. Duff a lot, but had a few small reservations. No such reservations about The Blank Wall. I'd expected I might have to work a little at this novel because I've seen both of the movie adaptations -- The Reckless Moment (1949) and The Deep End (2001) --
...more
Veronique
Jan 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
4.5

Another complete discovery! And oh my!!!!

From the very first page, I was hooked on Lucia’s voice, her thoughts and character. Here is a typical wife and mother during WWII, dealing with shortages and the many aspects of domestic life while her husband is away fighting in the Pacific. But is she really? Faced again and again with extreme situations, Lucia, whose only aim is to protect her family, finally lets her individuality come to the surface. Society and indeed her family have corseted he
...more
Jane
Nov 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: persephone-books
Lucia Holley, is a wife and mother, living with her daughter, her son, and her father, while her husband serves in the navy during WWII.

Lucia’s daughter, Bee, is a worry to her. She has become involved with an older man who her mother thinks is quite unsuitable, and Lucia is determined to put a stop to the relationship.

Her efforts though lead to a whole series of events – murder, blackmail, fraud - that threaten to destroy the very things that Lucia is trying to protect.

It’s a simple story, but
...more
Rosemary
May 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: persephone
A 1940s American housewife gets mixed up with the underworld when trying to protect her daughter from the consequences of seeing an undesirable man.

I found the setup here very funny - several laugh out loud moments. The characters are great and I really felt for Lucia trying to protect her family while her husband is away at war. Her father is so sweet too! The ending was a little bit of a disappointment for me - it worked, but it didn't add anything. But I loved reading the American 'home fron
...more
Mir
Apr 30, 2010 marked it as to-read
Shelves: mystery
My library doesn't have this but they have the movie "The Deep End" which was based on it. C'mon guys, where's the bibliophilia? Somehow it bothers me more when the library only has a movie or audiobook and not the actual book than when they have nothing.
Jackie
Jan 30, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: thriller, fiction, mystery
Slightly above average. More suspense than mystery. Well written.
Juliana
Oct 11, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016
Daniel
3.25 - Not bad, but I was expecting something more.

Lucia Holley's husband is away in the Pacific (WWII). She lives with her elderly father, 17 year old daughter, and 15 year old son. They have a live-in housekeeper, Sybil. The daughter, Bee, is involved with a sketchy older man.

According to the jacket copy on my edition, this is:
"a ferociously taut drama around the plight of a wartime housewife forced beyond the limits of her sheltered domestic world in order to protect her family."

Various ver
...more
Kate Kirk
Apr 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a really gentle but clever murder mystery of sorts. Written in 1947 but set three years into the American side of WW2. The murders, are two, the first probably manslaughter the second definitely murder all take place in a sleepy coastal community and involve a middle class family. We spend a good deal of time inside the mother’s as she schemes and plans her way to pay off a blackmailer whilst protecting her family. She has a role in hiding both the bodies for very different reasons.

I do
...more
Susan
Jun 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Living in the U.S. during World War II, Lucia copes capably with household glitches and challenges like a malfunctioning refrigerator, shortages and rationing, and her two teenage children. But when a member of her family is accidentally involved in a crime, Lucia will do anything to protect her family. What keeps this noir story grounded as Lucia slowly becomes enmeshed in a series of coverups are the many every day details and realistic feelings of the very believable heroine.
Moriartyandherbooks
Aug 17, 2019 rated it it was ok
2.5 Stars

Just unremarkable in every way. I'm sure the author was trying to make some kind of point with the meek housekeeper, but it was just too boring for me to care.
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Elisabeth Sanxay Holding (1889-1955) was born and brought up in New York and educated at Miss Whitcombe's and other schools for young ladies. In 1913 she married George Holding, a British diplomat. They had two daughters and lived in various South American countries, and then in Bermuda, where her husband was a government official. Elisabeth Sanxay Holding wrote six romantic novels in the 1920s bu ...more
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“Her husband and her children did not consider her beyond criticism. She belonged to them; whatever she did affected them; their pride, their good name in the world lay in her hands. They would give her love, protection, even a sort of homage, but in return for that she must be what they wanted and needed her to be.” 2 likes
“Why is it 'housewife'? What would I call myself if we lived in a hotel? Nobody ever puts down just 'wife,' or even just 'mother.' If you haven't got a job, and you don't keep house, then you aren't anything. apparently. I wish I was something else. I mean, besides keeping house, I wish I was a designer, for instance. The children would think a lot more of me, if I was a designer. Maybe Tom would, too.” 0 likes
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