Friday, January 20, 2012

10. The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall

by Mary Downing Hahn
Leaving an orphanage reminiscent of the one in Jayne Eyre, 12 year old Florence has high hopes as she travels to live with a great uncle and aunt at his manor estate. Never having met him, she knows very little of Crutchfield Hall and the distant family she will be joining. Having always lived in the city she is nervous about life in the country and about meeting the family she never knew but still excited to have a chance at a happier life. Arriving alone, wet and cold, Florence is greeted horribly by her great aunt and soon realizes that despite the kindness of her great uncle and the richness of her new home, her life will not be joyous or easy. Her recently deceased cousin Sophie seems to be ever present. The uncle is kind and happy to welcome Florence, intent on making up for the years she spent at the orphanage. Worshiping Sophie's memory, her aunt constantly compares Florence to her, pointing out that Sophie was superior in every way. James is terrified of his late sister, the staff frightened, refuse to speak of her and her uncle refuses to believe that anything is amiss. Sophie herself soon welcomes Florence, at first appearing to be a friend then revealing herself to be the wicked, manipulating and cruel child she was in life. Florence quickly realises that Sophie has a menacing hold on those in the manor and intends to exact revenge for her early death. With no one willing to talk about what is happening some not willing to acknowledge the eerie happenings, Florence decides she must protect the family and fights to stop Sophie's horrific plan.
Younger readers may enjoy the frightening descriptions of Sophie's appearance and the gentle creep of terror that rises from each chapter. What happens is not revealed until the last moment keeping the thrall of suspense and ghostly horror ramped up until the very end.

Heavily reminiscent of Victorian horror stories, this novel provides all the shadows, ghostly influence and gothic undertones to interest a new generation to the genre. After reading it I felt the urge to watch Jayne Eyre, Rebbecca and Gaslight all over again.
Book # 10 of my 50 book challenge

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