When Eliza Caine and her father brave the dreadful London weather to listen to the prolific Mr. Dickens read his new story, they could hardly have imagined the consequences.  Eliza’s beloved father catches a chill and within hours he is dead.  Eliza, alone in the world, and no way to pay the rent of her London home, takes a position as a governess in Norfolk.  Bizarre happenings begin as soon as she steps off the train and onto the platform in the village.

Eliza is not to be dissuaded from her new task and becomes even more determined when she learns that she is the sixth governess in less than a year — and only one of those has survived.

The children, Isabella and Eustace, are clearly in charge of the imposing Gaudlin Hall.  Isabella in particular is absurdly calm and self-assured for a little girl.

At times the dangers are a distinctly supernatural and violent.  Other times, Eliza deals with strangely domestic “accidents.”  Despite having no hot water in the Hall, Eliza is scalded by boiling water that emerges from the kitchen tap.  Her hands are burned and wrapped bandages.

I knew that in time some of this would go away, but the scars that remained, those raw inflamed grooves of scarlet, would, I knew, never fade.  The burns had been too severe.  They  as my Gaudlin scars.  The presence, for that was how I defined it now, that strange presence that was opposed to my being at Gaudlin Hall had scalded me so badly that I would bear these disfigurements for ever.   ~ Loc. 1882 of 3253

Eliza is a very self-aware character.  She is determined and strong, even if she is slow to figure things out sometimes.  Boyne occasionally slides over atmospherics in favor of action.  I would have preferred a slower pace in sections to allow the Gothic chill sink in.

Boyne does a commendable job disclosing details and secrets as needed, while keeping the suspense up.  In most ways the “reveal” adds up.  Still, there are a couple of the rules that are well-established and ingrained, but in the rush to get to the climax, Boyne glosses over a key plot point.  Read for the characters and the action and not for setting or nuance.

In any event, the book is an enjoyable read and perfect for this time of year.

Read via NetGalley

From Other Press

ISBN: 9781590516799

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