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This House is Haunted, by John Boyne

review published on July 13, 2013. Reviewed by Jade Cranwell

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We all find it difficult losing a loved-one, but when twenty-one year old Eliza Cane looses her father suddenly, she is left with no home, no other family and nowhere to go. Panicking, she makes the rash decision to take on the position of governess at Gaudlin Hall, Norfolk, after seeing an advertisement in a broadsheet.

On a dark and chilly night, Eliza arrives at the Hall, expecting to be met by her employer. Instead, she is greeted by two young children, Isabella and Eustace, and no one else is in the building; no parents, no adults, no one at all. When she questions the children about the whereabouts of their parents, she gets evasive answers, or half-truths but no explanations. Where are they? Why are the children alone?

Things start becoming more mystifying when it is apparent that something strange is happening at Gaudlin Hall; not only is Eliza almost pushed in front of a train as soon as she arrives at the Norfolk station – only to be saved by a passing doctor – but later that night, in her new room, a second terrifying experience convinces Eliza that something is very wrong.

Things take a turn for the worst when she discovers the fate of the previous governess’ to take up residence at Gaudlin Hall. Whatever malign presence resides in her new home, Eliza soon realises that her life, and that of the children’s, will not be safe until the secrets of Gaudlin Hall are excavated and put to rest for good.

The year is 1867, and the setting is a grand, dilapidated manor house. It all sounds a bit Jane Eyre, the very reason I was attracted to the book in the first place, but this is a ghost story; no more, no less.

Anything John Boyne ever writes is something I am more than excited to read, and as I have already mentioned, the plot is something that I was immediately interested in reading. The gothic elements of this story, mixed with the work of an excellent author, results in a book that will appeal to many readers. One of his most notable works to date, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, secured Boyne a place as one of the best authors of the decade, as well as being a personal favourite of mine. Where The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas was written to perfection as the voice of an innocent, educated boy, This House is Haunted is in the viewpoint of educated, grieving but ever-loyal Eliza Cane. Boyne shows-off his skill in writing by having the ability to write convincingly in both male and female characters, and young and old voices, weaving a narrative true to the characters that live within its pages.

I can easily see This House is Haunted being adapted into a TV drama at some point in the future, and if his track record is anything to go by, John Boyne will no doubt have another bestseller out in no time. Something I am already anticipating.

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