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Hannah Gray is now an old woman, reliving the summer when she was seventeen and in love. She’s revisiting her grandparents’ house on the coast of Maine and re-reading her journal from that summer. She was fighting with her stepmother, her father was back home in Boston, and the house they had rented was haunted but Hannah was the only one who could see that. She eventually stumbles on the tale of a gruesome murder with ties to the house when it was located on an island out on the bay. In a dual narrative, the book contains Hannah’s journal and relates the events surrounding the murder.
I really just grabbed this out of a box of books that I borrowed from my aunt a long time ago and haven’t finished reading. I glanced at the back and saw something about Maine and decided that sounded good to me. I was surprised to get a murder and a ghost!
Don’t get the idea that this is a horror novel. There’s a lot more going on here than that. The ghost seems to serve more as an illustration of the ways we hurt each other in countless ways, both big and small, and the way that bitterness and anger cause effects that ripple out from us and down through generations.
I liked Hannah and thought her parts captured that feeling of being young and in love and knowing that the world is too small to contain everything you feel. She just wants to do what she wants but she has her stepmother constantly trying to clip her wings. And Conary, the boy she loves–he’s fabulous. I got the feeling that he could be a heart breaker but he’s tender and caring and charming and almost perfect with Hannah.
The story about the Haskells and their miserable lives together is horrifying. They just about hate each other. Well, they really do hate each other. Claris and Danial are married in spite of her parents’ misgivings. They see Danial more truly than Claris although she’d never admit it. Claris thinks his quiet demeanor hides a deep soul when really it hides a man who just wants to work and be hateful and not much else. The two warp their children and even drag a schoolteacher who is boarding with them down into their spite and hate. They’re one of those couples that seems happiest when they’re tearing each other apart. They were exhausting.
The harsh Maine landscape of the early twentieth century plays a part here too. A visit to Maine is definitely on my bucket list and the descriptions in this book only added to my desire to go. But the tough climate shaped a tough, proud bunch of people and that’s reflected here. This is one of those books that just wouldn’t be the same if it was set anywhere else.
I haven’t read The Woman in Black but, based on the movie, I get the feeling that readers who enjoyed that would enjoy this book and vice versa.
When you’re in the mood to explore the darker side of human nature, give this one a try. It’s a quick, atmospheric read that won’t disappoint.
Read an excerpt.
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I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop’s, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.