Ruts. They sometimes hit us at the most surprising times. Often (annoyingly) when we are actually feeling quite motivated and ready for a new challenge. My recent rut, however, was book related. A little disheartening considering it is only the first week of the second month of the year, but then I was never a good starter off the blocks.
I have big reading aspirations for this year, especially with the BBC Big Read list of 100 books looming large on my bucket list. Yet, despite my hopes for a literary-laden 2017, the year hasn’t started quite as I hoped. Before things completely unravelled, however, I decided to take my own advice (we all have to start sometime, I guess), forget my false start and live as though it was the first of the year.
After falling completely under Lucie Whitehouse’s spell in Keep You Close, I was eager for more. The House at Midnight has, as such, dutifully been sitting on my shelf, waiting for the day when I would push it to the top of my ever-growing to-be-read pile. Described by Lee Child most poetically as “psychological suspense as elegant as a Swiss watch but as powerful as a locomotive”, I sensed even before the turn of the first page that this would be a tale like no other.
Set against the backdrop of the south east England county of Oxfordshire, The House at Midnight is a tale of friendship and many of the trials and tribulations that go along with it. When Lucas Heathfield’s high-flying uncle unexpectedly takes his own life, he inherits the monumental Stoneborough Manor and a lifestyle for which he and his friends are more unprepared than they know. What initially promises to be a carefree summer filled with laughter, love and memories to last a lifetime, slowly assumes the air of a dark ‘fairytale’.
Joanna, Lucas, Martha, Danny, Rachel, Michael and Greg slowly become suffocated by the house’s vastness, with all of their relationships being thrust under the magnifying glass. As unnerving similarities between the friends and the manor’s previous occupants also begin to emerge, the art-laden walls start to reveal their true secrets.
Whitehouse has an unparalleled ability to create scenery that builds around the reader, enveloping them in her literary tales. We feel every pang of emotion between friends, between lovers. Every moment of fear, of hope and subsequent loss feels so real. The subtle build will have you invested from page one and you’ll soon discover that “it’s all just a little bit of history repeating”.
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