Friday, October 1, 2010

Book review: The House of Dead Maids by Clare B. Dunkle

The House of Dead Maids by Clare B. Dunkle (Published by Henry Holt, September 14, 2010)

In 18th century England, eleven-year-old Tabby Aykroyd is an orphan being educated at a knitting school when she is chosen to leave the school for employment. She is brought to a creepy old manor named Seldom House to be nursemaid to a savage, uncivilized little boy with no name of his own. From the time she arrives at Seldom House, she senses something is not right. There are few servants and all behave oddly. The villagers are strange and there is no church. The little boy behaves horribly and no one else in the house thinks he needs to learn right from wrong.

Tabby soon realizes the house is haunted by many ghosts, which no one else in the house seems to think is odd at all. What is the ghost of a former maid who haunts her room trying to tell her? For what purpose was she brought here to care for a boy who is not related to the master of the house? Why does everyone behave so strangely here? Can Tabby solve the mystery in time to save the young boy and herself from a horrible fate?

The House of Dead Maids is a creepy, chilling Gothic tale that can stand on its own, although it is written as a prequel to Wuthering Heights - the child Tabby cares for is the young Heathcliff of that novel, and I suspect many readers of this book will take an interest in the classic novel so they can find out “what happens next.” However, you do not need to have read Wuthering Heights to enjoy this book, it can be enjoyed by anyone who loves a creepy ghost story, and as a reader who loves historical fiction, I really enjoyed the well-researched historical setting and Tabby’s authentic narrative voice.

Disclosure: Review copy provided by publisher.

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