“This House is Haunted” is a book about a haunted house. Surprise, surprise! The ingenuity of the title should have given me an inkling about the quality of the book. But since I was in the mood for a haunted house story and John Boyne is a well-beloved author, I decided to give it a try.
To put it mildly, this was an underwhelming reading experience and it felt like Boyne took the best out of a variety of gothic themed books about this topic and jumbled everything up, creating the mess that this book is.
This book has:
- an insipid main character a.k.a Eliza a.k.a the governess or how I like to call her “the daft cow” (I will come back to here later).
- weird children
- a manor house with secret passageways
- a secret mystery person, locked up in the house
And, of course, there are a lot of twist and turns, who aren´t actually twist and turns because I saw every one of them coming. Let me give you an example:
Eliza gets water from a tap, commenting how icy cold the water is. She repeats this, again commenting how icy cold the water is. And she is even doing this for a third time. And then, then fourth time, the tap water is scalding hot and she severely burns her hands.
And Boyne does this with every twist in this story. I was bored beyond belief.
However, this wasn´t my biggest gripe about this book. This one belongs to our heroine, Eliza, who is annoying, dumb and a hypocrite all at once.
She is constantly complaining about her looks, telling the reader how plain she is, and yet when a man is flirting with her, she shrugs him off because he isn´t that good-looking. Yes, she loves the good-looking kind of man and she cannot stop herself drooling over every man she can lay an eye on. Unfortunately, those men are either all married or too old, as she is prone to tell the reader at some point.
Eliza´s main objective is to get a man and have a family, yet she wants to be her own independent woman. Why do women have to conform to those old ideas and gender stereotypes of how a woman should behave in society? This is something she asks herself several times throughout the book and almost immediately in the same sentence she dreams about going down the aisle with Mr. Raisin, who is married btw. Eliza wants it all. Her character didn´t make sense at all. And in this particular scene, where they are talking about Madges visit to Santina Westerley in prison (and who is about to get hanged), I just wanted to kick Eliza:
“That´s right. But I told you that in the strictest confidence, Eliza. You haven´t mentioned it to anyone, have you? Alex would be terribly angry if he found out. He expressly forbade me from going there.”
“No, I promise that I haven´t and that I will not,” I said. “You have my word on that.”
“Thank you. Don´t misunderstand me, my husband is the epitome of kindness and consideration, but on that subject, the subject of Santina Westerley, he would brook no disobedience on my part.”
“Madge, your secret is secure”, I said with a sigh, wondering why on earth an intelligent woman like this would feel obliged towards obedience or disobedience in the first place. Was she a child, after all, or a grown woman?
Dismissing the fear of a man for his spouse and being condescending towards a woman, who doesn´t want to distress her husband unneccessarely. Shut up, daft cow. After this I secretly wished that the ghost would succeed. Alas, it didn´t. Which I knew from the very first page, because Eliza is telling the story in retrospect.
Definitely not a book I would recommend … unless you are looking for book that you could use for a drinking game. There is a whole lot of gasping and sighing going on, so I guess you could be drunk by the end of it.