Thursday 7 February 2013

Dolly by Susan Hill

Published in October 2012 by Profile Books
Pages - 153
Book borrowed from the library.
An autumn night and the fens stretch for miles, open and still. It is dark, until the full moon slides from behind a cloud and over the huddle of grey stone which is Iyot Lock. The hamlet straddles a cross roads between flat field , with its squat church on the east side, hard by Iyot House and the graveyard in between.
Goodreads Summary
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.
I had such high expectations from this book as I love the way Susan Hill makes my nerves rattle in fright. The language and descriptions are always so atmospheric; you literally have to clear the darkening fog that settles  over you while you read with your trembling fingers. Normally I can guarantee that her words will scare me, but unfortunately Dolly didn’t frighten me one little bit.
I think my biggest problem with this book was the lack of explanation. We are in the presence of a seriously spooky doll that has been ill-treated, yet we never discover why this doll became the horror it did, we are left only to assume what brought this terror to life. Dolls don’t normally come to life when thrown out of prams, so what was so special about this one?
The scene setting cannot be faulted. Susan Hill knows how to bring eeriness and horror to life. Her characters are well thought out and believable. The story jumps backwards and forwards in time from when Edward and Leonora were very young to the present day, so you get a clear indication of their character development.  In this book, Leonora is the child from hell and doesn’t diffuse any of her evilness in  adult hood. Her actions are embedded in her selfish, spoilt nature brought on by a mother who doesn’t really care. The main character Edward is a well behaved boy who accepts whatever life throws at him – he was orphaned at a very young age and has learnt to live in harmony with gratitude. As an adult he is a rather sweet and generous character,  happy to do the right thing. 
Unfortunately there was something very similar about this book to her previous novellas. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but as I said on previous reviews of her books there is a feeling of writing to formula.
Having said that I do think she is a very talented writer who knows how to grip a reader with her gothic style atmospheric settings.

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