This House is Haunted by John Boyne (Black Swan, 2014)
London, 1867. Eliza Caine is a 21-year old school teacher living in a small house with her widowed father. After attending a reading by Charles Dickens on a cold, rainy night, her already ill father quickly dies and Eliza finds that she cannot afford the rent of the house on her teacher's wage. She sees a situation for a governess being required at Gaudlin Hall in Norfolk. She applies for the position and a few days later she is on a train to Gaudlin Hall having been accepted without interview and after resigning at the school. Arriving at the station she is pushed into the path of a train by invisible hands and only saved from death by the local doctor, who pulls her to safety. Eliza is collected by the hall's handyman and upon arrival is horrified to find that the only other inhabitants are her charges, 12-year old Isabella and 8-year old Eustace. She is unable to find out where their parents are and it is several days before she learns that a terrible tragedy happened at the hall a year before and that she is the 6th governess in that time, 4 of the others having died at the hall. Soon she feels a supernatural force within the hall bent on causing her death.
This is the first book I have read by the author and I had a reasonably good time reading it. I wouldn't say that, for me, the book was a complete success. I enjoyed the narrative and Eliza Caine as narrator was quite engaging, but I didn't feel that the author created a creepy enough atmosphere, and the house itself was rather bland. Also, I was unconvinced that Eliza Caine was a mid-Victorian, middle-class young woman; rather, she seemed to exhibit some social attitudes and morals closer to our own time, and this, I thought, increased as the book progressed. However, that is something I think is not uncommon in books written by modern authors but set in the past. Despite the fact of 4 deaths of previous governesses and no-one being willing to stay at the hall--the handyman and another character live in the grounds, no-one seems willing to believe Eliza when she describes the supernatural force being the cause of the 'accidents' that have befallen her at the hall, which I thought was a little too sceptical. Surely people would have been willing to listen to her after what had previously happened at the hall. An example is when Eliza is entertaining the doctor's wife at the hall. Eliza turns on the tap--cold water only--only to discover that the water is scaldingly hot and she burns badly her hands. Despite the fact that there was a witness no-one seems to consider that a cold water tap should suddenly gush hot water. With the reservations, I did enjoy the book and it has a suitably downbeat ending, and there was a death which I really wasn't expecting. Overall, not a bad read but not as creepy as I would have liked.