On my last day of interning at Bloomsbury, I was told to help myself to books on my way out, a suggestion I took perhaps quite too literally as I soon found myself wandering through Soho with a stack of books piled under both arms, and one wedged under my neck for good measure.
Amongst the books I chose was Lucie Whitehouse’s debut offering – The House At Midnight, enticed by both the front cover (I’m a sucker for aesthetics) and the novel’s comparison’s to both Rebecca and The Secret History. The sort of tale that hooks its reader from the very first page, The House at Midnight is a gripping tale from the get go.
Set deep in the rolling grounds of an Oxfordshire manor house, one balmy, stormy summer, the atmospheric setting of the novel is as prominent a character as any of the friends around which the tale revolves. Not dissimilar to Du Maurier’s Manderly is Whitehouse’s rolling Stoneborough Manor, left to Lucas by his eccentric late uncle following an untimely and mysterious death. And while the remote country house began as a refuge for the group of friends, Lucas soon becomes obsessed by both his uncle’s death and the discovery of cine films from Stoneborough Manor thirty years ago which depicted a group of friends disturbingly similar to his own. Claustrophobic and decadent, the house quickly seeps a sinister and consuming energy causing tension and insurmountable rifts in relationships as its haunting past makes its way in to the present.
The House at Midnight boasts the perfect blend of ingredients for a gripping gothic horror. Intimately drawn characters, a fast-past and evocative plot and the use of pathetic fallacy and an oppressive setting make a compelling and captivating read.
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