The blurb: The remoter parts of the English Fens are forlorn, lost and damp even in the height of summer. At Iyot Lock, a large decaying house, two young cousins, Leonora and Edward are parked for the summer with their ageing spinster aunt and her cruel housekeeper.
At first the unpleasantness and petty meannesses appear simply spiteful, calculated to destroy Edward’s equanimity. But when spoilt Leonora is not given the birthday present of a specific dolly that she wants, affairs inexorably take a much darker turn with terrifying, life destroying, consequences for everyone.
My review: A new ghost story by Susan Hill is always looked upon with delight, no one else quite masters that slow, trickling dread and Dolly is no exception. If you are familiar with the Edwardian & Victorian ghost story greats, a comparison here is not undeserved. There is a subtlety in style and pace that leaves you with a lingering sense of unease, far after you have finished the book.
This book differs slightly from the last Susan Hill I read and I’m trying to remember if the same goes for The Woman in Black, in that the main protagonist, young Edward is wholly undeserving of any malice or violence that is sent his way. It seems unjust that a quiet, calm child should have the terror that his cousin Leonara represents inflicted upon him. But so goes the way of the world. The location here is perfectly suited to the narrative and Hill has a way of conjuring up bleakness where we would normally see a quaint and sunny village!
This book plays on strong emotions leaving an imprint and creating something not wholly natural. The title and the cover bring to mind the blank, porcelain faces of Victorian dolls, which in themselves are horribly creepy and give a good indication of the levels of rising dread to be expected from this book. A fantastic ghost story, that underplays the horror which makes it all the more terrifying!
7 out of 10 stars! *******
BUY ME! Dolly: A Ghost Story