Because I was completely blown away by Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief (now officially one of my all-time favorite novels), a friend of mine recommended John Boyne’s The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas which apparently has a similar feel. Of course, my ANCIENT library didn’t carry this book but it did have This House Is Haunted by the same author. I’m not usually a fan or scary stories but, feeling brave and adventurous, I put on my big-girl pants and gave it a go.
Overall this was a pretty good read. It was a little creepy, but not unbearably so. Though it was published not very long ago (2013?) it had a very nostalgic feel to it. The language and of course the time period reminded me of all of those wonderful 19th-century novels that were required reading during my college years—oh, the joys of being an English major. At the same time, it didn’t feel outdated at all despite the fact that the story takes place in the mid-1800s. That’s talent for you. I’m convinced that the Irish are simply better writers than the rest of us, lol.
To summarize the plot (without any spoilers), protagonist Eliza Caine becomes governess to two small children in Norfolk. The estate, Gaudlin Hall, is a place of great mystery with a horrific backstory that no one seems to want to talk about. When Eliza arrives at her new position, there are no other adults present in the home—only Isabella and Eustace, the two children who she is looking after. Confused, Eliza continually tries to seek answers for why she was hired at Gaudlin Hall but has yet to meet her employer. When several terrifying things that can only be described as supernatural happen to Eliza during her residency, she is determined to get to the bottom of things. The story that unravels is shocking, eerie and even a bit sad. I would call it a classic ghost story but for the progressive protagonist who cuts through the scary bits and makes the tale so much more interesting. Sprinkled in between the story are themes of childhood trauma, sexism, maternal love, and obsession. Sounds heavy, but it’s a very easy read and pretty entertaining from start to finish (although I was a tad frustrated by some questions of mine that remained unanswered by the end). Not bad, Mr. Boyne, not bad. I’m looking forward to reading The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas soon.