Tag Archives: Lucie Whitehouse

The House At Midnight – Lucie Whitehouse

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!!!

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Thankyou & Goodnight

Ok, so I am not actually leaving or anything but I thought that this would be a good title for a blog for the subject matter. I haven’t blogged since Friday as I briefly mentioned on Thursday that I would be spending the weekend in the West Sussex, Petworth to be precise. In the grounds of this wonderful National Trust property I was one of the volunteers for the Ribbon Walk which Breast Cancer Care have organised since 2005 adding new walks, I think this was Petworth’s second, and I was there to do various volunteer duties.

I had asked that whilst I was staying in such grand, yet slightly spooky, surroundings to help me choose between the books I should read next whilst away and I took with me, on so many peoples say so both ‘The Seance’ by John Harwood and ‘The House At Midnight’ by Lucie Whitehouse starting with the latter. I cannot thank you all enough for adding your thoughts. I am wondering if it might be something I should do more regularily if I get stuck with reads and inspiration?

How much reading did I actually do… well… would you be angry if I said I have read about ten pages this weekend? If I explain that from about 2pm friday I was helping put up tents, marquees and fences. Helping decorate and fill said tents and marquee’s to make them look delightful. Lugging crates of water, bananas and Haribo (the latter very dangerous as the temptation was too much for many of us. Making goody bags and unwrapping medals for participants. This went on until quite late when we popped for a pint had a good natter and were all in bed very early from exhaustion, so no reading. Then Saturday was a 5am start with more of the same. Then welcoming all the participants and then supporting them on their 20 or 10 mile walk, cheering them on getting them water and treats. Then Sunday was undoing everything that had been decorated and put up in the previous days all this in the heat too. It was all hardwork but 100% worth it.

Now I am back and am planning on having quite a relaxed and early night. Do I want to read? I have to say that though I would love to curl up some more with ‘The House at Midnight’ but I think all the heat and genaral madness and ‘getting involved in everything’ of the weekend has left me too exhausted to read. Does anyone else ever get that? You are so tired that even though the idea of a book is heaven, the reality is that your so tired you can’t concentrate on what you are reading or what you are taking in, thats the state that I ma in this evening. So instead its pizza, the sofa and a copy of ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ on DVD. I havent read the short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald but I would like to. For once oddly I am not bothered that I haven’t read the book first, I just want to get lost in some far fetched wonderful tale of escapism and this looks like it should do the trick. Back to normal business tomorrow I promise., hope you have all had lovely weekends?

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What To Read Next… You Decide

I mentioned yesterday that I really wanted to read something set in a big house, probably something that had a spooky side to it. The reason is that I will be staying at a stately home this weekend and so I thought as I am nearing the end of the brilliant ‘Daphne’ by Justine Picardie – which is oddly also set partly in Daphne’s stately home, and also need a Bronte break before I start ‘The Taste of Sorrow’, that I would read something in a stately setting next. 

So I asked for your thoughts and then also had a look through my never ending TBR and found three books that fit the brief.  Now, as I really like having interaction with you on the blog, I thought I would give you the option of choosing what I read next out of the three which are…

The House at Midnight – Lucie Whitehouse

When Lucas inherits Stoneborough Manor after his uncle’s unexpected death, he imagines it as a place where he and his close circle of friends can spend time away from London. But from the beginning, the house changes everything. Lucas becomes haunted by the death of his uncle and obsessed by cine films of him and his friends at Stoneborough thirty years earlier. The group is disturbingly similar to their own, and within the claustrophobic confines of the house over a hot, decadent summer, secrets escape from the past and sexual tensions escalate, shattering friendships and changing lives irrevocably.

Madresfield – Jane Mulvagh

Madresfield Court is an arrestingly romantic stately home surrounded by a perfect medieval moat, in the Malvern Hills in Worcestershire. It has been continuously owned and lived in by the same family, the Lygons, back to the time of the Domesday Book, and, unusually, remains in the family’s hands to this day. Inside, it is a very private, unmistakably English, manor house; a lived-in family home where the bejewelled sits next to the threadbare, the heraldic and feudal rest easily next to the prosaically domestic. The house and the family were the real inspiration for Brideshead Revisited: Evelyn Waugh was a regular visitor, and based his story of the doomed Marchmain family on the Lygons.Never before open to the public, the doors of “Madresfield” have now swung open to allow Jane Mulvagh to explore its treasures and secrets. And so the rich, dramatic history of one landed family unfolds in parallel with the history of England itself over a millennium, from the Lygon who conspired to overthrow Queen Mary in the Dudley plot; through the tale of the disputed legacy that inspired Dickens’ Bleak House; to the secret love behind Elgar’s Enigma Variations; and the story of the scandal of Lord Beauchamp, the disgraced 7th Earl.

The Seance – John Harwood

‘Sell the Hall unseen; burn it to the ground and plough the earth with salt, if you will; but never live there…’. London, the 1880s. A young girl grows up in a household marked by death, her father distant, her mother in perpetual mourning for the child she lost. Desperate to coax her mother back to health, Constance Langton takes her to a seance. Perhaps they will find comfort from beyond the grave. But that seance has tragic consequences.Constance is left alone, her only legacy a mysterious bequest will blight her life. So begins “The Seance”, John Harwood’s brilliant second novel, a gripping, dark mystery set in late Victorian England. It is a world of apparitions, of disappearances and unnatural phenomena, of betrayal and blackmail and black-hearted villains – and murder. For Constance’s bequest comes in two parts: a house, and a mystery. Years before a family disappeared at Wraxford Hall, a terrifying stately home near the Suffolk coast. Now Constance must find the truth behind the mystery, even at the cost of her life. Because without the truth, she is lost.

So now all that is left for you to all tell me which one I should read and then I will pop it into my packing before I leave late tonight. I look forward to counting the votes.

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