Via Netgalley – Publication date 27th July 2017
I’d heard this book talked about on a few booktube channels and just thought that the premise sounded right up my street. I enjoy anything a bit mysterious and creepy and this with its sinister house right at the centre of the story was very appealing and I was grateful for the advance download via Netgalley.
So, what is this book about? Well our protagonists are Eleanor and Richard a married couple with 2 young daughters Isobel and Rosie. They have just bought a large old Victorian house which has stretched them financially but is supposed to be a new start and a renovation project which will eventually get them their dream home.
They are so financially stretched that they take in a lodger called Zoe who inhabits the basement rooms.
When viewing the house they are shown the upstairs room which has walls covered in scrawled odd drawings of faces and birds, along with the name ‘Emily’ written over and over again. Eleanor quite rightly feels uneasy about this but explains it away by putting it down to a naughty child etc.
Not long after they move in Eleanor starts to feel physically ill, things start to move around and turn up where they never should have been. The couples 3 year old daughter Rosie begins to act oddly, tantrums and making strange noises, awful night terrors and telling stories of ‘Girl’ who she can see.
As Eleanor becomes more and more physically ill, vomiting and crippling debilitating headaches which strangely ease when she is out of the house, she becomes obsessed with finding out just who ‘Emily’ is and what exactly happened to the family that lived in the house before them.
She struggles to bond with their lodger Zoe even though Zoe herself is experiencing strange happenings in the house and she also struggles to convince Richard that it’s the house making her so ill.
What I loved about this book was the pacing. I really enjoy it when sinister things happen almost imperceptibly. With this book there is a slow build up with various little things happening which can almost be explained away as normal up to a certain point. This style of drip feeding kept me gripped right up to the end.
“Eleanor wasn’t surprised when things started to move. Feeling ill made everything gauzy, and they were tiny things, easy to explain away. She’d find a door wide open when she thought she’d shut it. The cutlery in the wrong compartments; her house keys in the fridge”
You are on the journey with Eleanor trying to find out just who Emily is and what happened to her and her family. You feel her desperation at becoming so ill and not being able to convince her husband that the house is to blame, not when it’s his dream home and he’s invested so much money into its renovation.
“Everything was out of place. A spoon in the oven. A pair of nail scissors in the bread bin. Feeling her way through the cloudy water of the washing up bowl, Eleanor’s fingers touched something familiar and wrong. She fished out her glasses, dripping, covered in soap and grease. Three days later she looked down at the cup of tea she’d made, and saw something solid and glistening floating towards the top. She dredged it out with a fork, half knowing: it was the salmon skin from their plates, thick, silver, gorgeous, hideous….”
There were times when I was reading this at night thinking ‘what the hell am I doing?!’ You can almost imagine it happening in real life and feeling the very real fear. There’s one particular part where Zoe is playing hide and seek with Rosie which sent shivers down my spine!
I was grateful for the chapters involving Zoe and her romantic relationship outside of the house as they were almost light relief. The chapters that dealt with Richard and Eleanor’s early relationship gave some basis as to the kind of characters they were and how they’d come to be in their current situation.
As for the ending, well I’m not someone who needs an ending to be all sewn up neatly with a bow on top but this ending was a little ambiguous and not very detailed. I’m hoping that it will maybe pave the way for a sequel which might offer more of an explanation as to the why’s and how’s. The door was certainly left ajar for this possibility in my opinion so here’s hoping!
All in all I found this a very sinister, interesting read and would definitely recommend it.