August 31, 2009

Library Finds - August 31, 2009

I am an avowed supporter and patron of my local library and as pleased as I am when I find a bestseller or popular book on the shelves, I am doubly pleased when I find an "unknown" book.

This is my most recent unexpected surprise, or "find":

The House at Midnight by Lucie Whitehouse

Description: At 30, Londoner Joanna still spends her free time with her Oxford college friends, now with burgeoning careers and all on the cusp of real adulthood. Lucas, Joanna's closest friend and prolonged crush, inherits Stoneborough Manor, a huge and imposing house in the Cotswold countryside filled with priceless art, where all the college friends are to spend every weekend together. The first visit, on New Year's Eve, doesn't start well, as the Londoners get lost. To Joanna, the manor has a threatening and unsettling aura and indeed, the big, dark, vaguely confusing house with its secrets and disappointments works well as an allegory for moving into the responsibilities and fears of growing up. Joanna and her friends proceed to deal with the unknown, some well, others destructively.

I spotted this book on the New Release shelves and the title caught my eye, as only the spine was visible. I immediately liked the cover and reading the description knew immediately that the book was coming home with me (at least for the 14 day borrowing period).

I found The House at Midnight to be a strong first effort for debut novelist Lucie Whitehouse. The book is decidedly modern but at times felt wonderfully gothic, with the bits and pieces of romance scattered in, as well as the dark atmosphere surrounding the imposing Stoneborough Manor. The house itself is a major character in the book; after all, don't forget the title. In fact, I found Ms. Whitehouse's descriptions of the manor to be some of the most powerful in the book. Her descriptions are so smooth, so eloquent and yet so mysterious that I could easily envision the house in my mind, in all its finery and unquiet. I also found the group of friends to be firmly fleshed out and relatable. I cared about them and I cared what happened to them.

The weak links to the book, in my opinion, were just two. First, I felt the book did teeter on the edge of full out creepiness without going there. I wished Ms. Whitehouse had made the house just a bit more sinister, without reverting to camp. Secondly, I found the ending to be a disappointment. After sitting on the edge of my seat throughout a great portion of the book, the ending was so uninspired, almost lacking in emotion, and so brusque, that it felt as though Ms. Whitehouse abruptly got up from her keyboard and decided she was done with the book.

All in all, though, I would recommend this book if you are a gothic or mystery fan. It's well worth the effort and I found it more enjoyable and pleasing than what may be considered a counterpart, The Thirteenth Tale.

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the thirteenth tales is one i have on will probably be our next listen.

sandy v.

Tales of Whimsy said...

Fab review! Sounds to scary for me. I'm a giant chicken.

Lori Johnston said...

Juju, I would say it's more atmospheric than scary - - although if I was living it, maybe I would say differently!

Hodgepodge, I'll be curious to know what you think of Thirteenth Tale. It kind of fell apart for me by the end - - but maybe a CD version will be better?

Jessica said...

If I were to see this book sitting on a shelf, I would probably take it home too! The cover and title are intriguing. Despite its weaknesses, I think I might pick it up if I see it.

Sarbear said...

This sounds cool -- I love scary movies but haven't read a lot of scary books so I need to pick this one up.

Krista said...

Great review! I was going to pick up The Thirteenth Tale at one point, but alas, I ended but getting something else. LOL! I might have to at one point, though.

I also didn't realize I wasn't following you so I am now :)


Oh wow this looks like a great read!

We've been having a ton of rain and dark skies right now in Scotland, and I could curl up with this book and really get into it I think. Sounds great to me!

The Sweet Bookshelf