I had mentioned in a previous post that I really wanted to read a book set in a grand stately home whilst I myself stayed in the same setting. Now my intention was to read the book, which was Lucie Whitehouse’s debut novel ‘The House At Midnight’, while I was there but being busy took over and so its taken me a fair while to actually sit down and read it. In fact actually until Thursday I was only about 25 pages in, which then having book group meant it was held off an evening. Last night I finally got myself all curled up on the sofa and before I knew it five hours had gone by and the book was finished.
‘The House At Midnight’ is a tale set in Stoneborough Manor, in deepest Oxfordshire. In these grand surroundings a group of friends meet after Lucas Heathfield inherits the property from his uncle Patrick. Lucas’ grand scheme is to use this house as a weekend retreat for all his university friends to escape from the hustle and bustle of their city lives now most of them are in London. However within days of their first stay at the Manor things start to change between them.
Lucas declares his love for his best friend Joanna (who is also our narrator of the novel) something the group of friends has been expecting for years. There are the old sayings though that ‘the course of true love never did run smooth’ and that ‘friendships shouldn’t become relationships’ and as the lines, not only between Joanna and Lucas but within the rest of the group too, blur between friendship and more things becoming increasingly more complex and darker. Throughout the year that follows desire mounts, sexuality flows and a whole mix of emotions arise all under the confines of a Manor which slowly but surely seems to be having a strange effect on Lucas who becomes more and more obsessed about his past and the dark secrets that lie in it and also the secrets that lie in all of his friends lives.
I admit I was expecting from the cover that this would be an epic chilling, thrilling ghost story. It’s not. What it is in fact is a domestic drama about a group of people as they reach their thirties and how emotions, desire and greed can push people together and pull them apart shattering relationships and friendships as they go. In many ways it reminded me of a British middle-class homage to Donna Tartt’s ‘The Secret History’, I could also see shades of Evelyn Waugh’s ‘Brideshead Revisited’ in terms of the relationships between the younger generations in that novel.
I was really impressed with Lucie Whitehouse’s debut, and though I ended up reading something quite different from what I thought I was getting, I honestly couldn’t put it down. Even though this wasn’t a ghost story it’s incredibly gripping and has one heck of a twist in its tail for you. Through out the book you’re constantly wondering where the next twist and drama is going to come from. Though it isn’t technically a thriller either the way that Whitehouse writes she doesn’t need to leave a cliff hanger at every chapter ending to make you want to read the end. I found this an immensely enjoyable read and look forward to whatever Lucie writes next, highly recommended.
And speaking of houses at midnight, I will be shifting between houses at midnight tonight I am moving house this weekend! It’s all been quite sudden and I have been keeping it close to my chest as didn’t want to jinx it. I love the new place, its great and its also HUGE… all the more room for more books!!!