Reviews : Jane – Emily by Patricia Clapp & Dolly by Susan Hill

Jane – Emily

Emily was a selfish , willful , hateful child who died before her thirteenth birthday . But that was a long time ago .

Jane is nine years old and an orphan when she and her young Aunt Louisa come to spend the summer at Jane’s grandmother’s house , a large , mysterious mansion in Massachusetts. Then one day . . . Jane stares into a reflecting ball in the garden — and the face that looks back at her is not her own .

Many years earlier, a child of rage and malevolence lived in this place . And she never left . Now Emily has dark plans for little Jane—a blood-chilling purpose that Louisa , just a girl herself , must battle with all her heart , soul , and spirit . . . or she will lose her innocent , helpless niece forever .

There are times when the midsummer sun strikes cold , and when the leaping flames of a hearthfire give no heat . Times when the chill within us comes not from fears we know , but from fears unknown – and forever unknowable .”

It is not a case of remembering , child . One never forgets . One simply covers them up , hides them somewhere , builds a wall so they cannot be discovered . . .

Patricia Clapp , Jane – Emily

This is my first Patricia Clapp read . While the writing is engaging and keeps the reader invested in Jane ‘ s fate , Emily ‘ s antics as the malevolent spirit does not pack the punch to shock the reader ( atleast for me ) – a few were very much predictable . Little Emily satisfied me as an evil personified child and surprisingly shocked me with her cunning & temper tantrums than the ghost whose actions were downright tame .

While this book might have ” thrilled and chilled ” the previous generation , several of the plot sequences are now often seen in our horror movies that they no longer can shock the modern reader . The finale` effectively extinguished any little interest I might have had in reading more of Patricia Clapp . Somebody finally musters up the courage to stand up to Emily and the mere courage finally vanquishes and banishes Emily from the house and all is well . Doesn ‘ t this sound too familiar ?

Rating : 2 . 75 / 5

Dolly

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 .

“Places are often filled with their own pasts and exude a sense of them, an atmosphere of great good or great evil, which can be picked up by anyone sensitive to their surroundings.”

Susan Hill , Dolly

I had previously read The Woman In Black by Susan Hill and loved it . After the disappointment with Clapp , I was apprehensive about trying new authors and decided that a known author was the safest bet . Hill ‘ s atmospheric narrative is the highlight of her storytelling . Her descriptions of the dreary landscape and the bleak weather set the tone for the rest of the narrative – vivid with a constant undercurrent of something sinister waiting to happen . It had me reading too much into the narrative hoping to pick up clues to guess the plot trajectory but I failed miserably . Dolly ‘ s ending is something that you wouldn ‘ t see coming . The reader knows that the incident with the Dolly bodes something ill for Leonora but never would one guess the superb final twist .

However , on the flipside Dolly leaves a little too much to the reader ‘ s interpretation . There are also several unanswered questions . I am ready to overlook these flaws for the simply brilliant narrative except that there is no convincing explanation as to what actually set in motion the chain of events . I would have loved if Hill had written a full length novel instead of a novella at 153 pages . These days while we have some novels with chapters which read like they were written as an afterthought , I could not help wondering at Susan Hill . The plot premise still has a lot of meat and Hill leaves her readers to work out a chunk of it by themselves which is somewhat frustrating . . .

Rating : 3 . 5 / 5 **

** If it were for the story line alone , it should have been a 3 only . But Susan Hill ‘s narrative is simply entralling that I am bumping it up to a 3 . 5 . . .

If you have already read the novellas , you can say in the comments section about your thoughts on them  . Until the next review then . . .

Review : The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

Plot summary ( from Goodreads ) :

On a cool June morning , a woman is walking her dog in the idyllic coastal village of Salten along a tidal estuary known as the Reach . Before she can stop him , the dog charges into the water to retrieve what first appears to be a wayward stick , but to her horror, turns out to be something much more sinister . . .

The next morning , three women in and around London—Fatima , Thea , and Isabel — receive the text they had always hoped would NEVER come , from the fourth in their formerly inseparable clique, Kate, that says only , “ I need you . ”

The four girls were best friends at Salten , a second rate boarding school set near the cliffs of the English Channel . Each different in their own way , the four became inseparable and were notorious for playing the Lying Game , telling lies at every turn to both fellow boarders and faculty , with varying states of serious and flippant nature that were disturbing enough to ensure that everyone steered clear of them . The myriad and complicated rules of the game are strict : no lying to each other—ever . Bail on the lie when it becomes clear it is about to be found out . But their little game had consequences , and the girls were all expelled in their final year of school under mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of the school ’ s eccentric art teacher , Ambrose ( who also happens to be Kate’s father ) .

My thoughts on the book :

This is my first Ruth Ware read and I am pretty impressed with her plotting abilities . A clique forced to revisit the memories of the past and discovering new angles to the secret which ties them together is not an entirely new premise in suspense fiction . What sets this one apart from the rest is the constant shapeshifting of the narrative which constantly makes the readers to question almost every single thing that is being said about the circumstances surrounding the death of Ambrose . The narrative keeps transitioning seamlessly from one mystery sub – genre to the next – from a whodunnit to a whydunnit to “don ‘ t tell – the real -thing – and – give – them – umpteen – scenarios – to – keep – ‘ em – guessing ” . It succeeds in keeping up the suspense right until the last chapter but one .

Now for the cons –

The narrative pace was somewhat slow for a good two – thirds of the novel . There are too many unwanted mentions about Isa ‘ s first – time mother woes and fears , long winded descriptions of all the drama in the reunion at Kate ‘ s house , the friends ‘ reactions to Fathima embracing her religion late in life ( to mention a few ) made me want to put the book in the DNF pile . Only the brilliant twists and interesting reveals kept me turning the pages . The name of the local policeman is found only in the mentions of the local who happens to be his mother who gets some inside information on the case proceedings and gloatingly voices the information and her opinions to the narrator . The police procedural involves only ominous mentions about a tent in the excavation site . While suspense fiction fans tend to look down upon works which do not have some police procedural drama , The Lying Game ‘ s popularity is a testimony to the author ‘ s brilliant plotting and decent storytelling skills . There were also some questions which were still left unanswered at the end . . .

I expected the finale to pack a punch after the narrative seemed to have finally picked up pace . After spending hours navigating through the deluge of everyday drama for a good one – third of the novel , the final few pages raised my hopes too much . However , the finale` was a huge dampner and somewhat over dramatic – a la` House of Wax . ( Hope you have got the hint . . . ) .

Hardcore suspense fiction readers can steer clear off this one easily . . .

Rating : 3 . 5 / 5

If you have already read the book , you can say in the comments section about your thoughts on the book  . Until the next review then . . .