Book Review: Wylding Hall
Author: Elizabeth Hand
Published by: Open Road Integrated
Publication Date: 17 Feb 2015
Page Count: 176
Source: e-book provided by author
Audience: Young Adult – Mystery, Ghost Story
The thing I love about ghost stories is that they can be told in many different ways. They can be spooky and creepy and sometimes just plain weird, or they can be keep-you-up-at-night scary. Wylding Hall is the creepy, weird-happenings kind of ghost story, leaving you questioning what really happened.
Wylding Hall is about a group of teenagers in a band in the seventies, but is written from their perspectives 42 years later. They rent an old house near a tiny village in England for a summer to work on their next album. Though they are all hyped up on drugs and booze (it was the seventies after all), it became apparent to them that the house was haunted. Each deals with it in their own way, most never even mention their experiences till after. One night a mysterious girl appears and the next day the lead singer is missing, never to reappear.
I love the way Wylding Hall was written. The story is written in nine different voices, documentary style, as if they are each talking to a camera or a reporter and giving their versions of what happened that fateful summer. Each voice is distinct; Elizabeth Hand did a great job of making them identifiable from the other.
Though, there were parts of the story that were creepy and you could definitely tell there was supernatural happenings, I wanted more. I wanted more ghostiness and weird, spooky situations. Because they were all always smoking, drinking, and doing drugs, none of the band members ever really dwelled on the weird stuff happening and never talked about it with each other. That would make sense to me in real life, but in a book, where you need and want more description, it falls short. I want to be spooked as I’m reading. Because it was written documentary style, you also lose a bit of that eeriness.
The imagery in the book was very descriptive, especially coming from people recalling it 42 years later who were essentially in a drug and alcohol coma the entire time. I did love it though, the scenery around the house, the little village, and the descriptions of the house itself. It all sounds charming, even the house in a spooky sort of way. It was easy to picture this group of friends too, in their hippie fashion jamming on their instruments and creating eerily beautiful folk music. I would have loved to hear their music.
The copy of the book I read was an advanced readers copy from the author or publisher and not the final corrected proof, so I won’t dwell on the grammatical or consistency mistakes I spotted. I only hope they were found before the final publication.
Even though I am an American living in the UK, there are still words and slang that I don’t understand. I had to look up words several times while reading this book because of the British terminology.
Though the book was written well and I did enjoy it, I didn’t think there was anything too amazing about it. I’m pretty positive in my reviews, but there was nothing that really stood out about this book other than the way it was written. No big dramatic middle scene or ending, no amazing reveal. As I said earlier, I just wanted more. I realize it was written that way on purpose and some people will love this book, but for me, I wanted it to go just a bit deeper into the paranormal.
Don't get me wrong, Elizabeth Hand is a great author and for those who want a mellow ghost story, or anyone into the seventies band scene, I would definitely recommend this book to them. I would also recommend it to an older teen crowd because of some of the language in it.
One Last Thought: Because there is really no protagonist or antagonist in the story, there were no favorite or least favorite characters in the book and so I left that off my normal ending.
Favorite Thing About This Book: The best thing about this book is the way it was written, the multiple voices. It works well for the documentary style of writing.
First Sentence: I was the one who found the house.
When the young members of a British acid-folk band are compelled by their manager to record their unique music, they hole up at Wylding Hall, an ancient country house with dark secrets. There they create the album that will make their reputation, but at a terrifying cost: Julian Blake, the group’s lead singer, disappears within the mansion and is never seen or heard from again.
Now, years later, the surviving musicians, along with their friends and lovers—including a psychic, a photographer, and the band’s manager—meet with a young documentary filmmaker to tell their own versions of what happened that summer. But whose story is true? And what really happened to Julian Blake?