Welcome back, dear readers! May I remind you that I will be doing a giveaway Oct 3rd for those of you subscribed to my newsletter? Now that I’ve gotten that reminder out of the way, let’s move onto this spoiler-free review!
Elizabeth Hand is an American writer who has written fourteen novels and five collections of short fiction and essays. Besides writing creatively, she is also a reviewer, critic and essayist for the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times. On top of all that, she is on the faculty of the Stonecoast MFA Program in Creative Writing. Fun fact, she even writes Star Wars spin offs!
In the aftermath of the mysterious death of their lead singer, the young members of a now-legendary British acid folk band hole up at Wylding Hall, an ancient English country house with its own dark secrets. There they record Wylding Hall, the album that makes their reputation—but at a terrifying cost, when Julian Blake, their new lead singer, disappears within the mansion and is never seen again.– Hand’s website
Wylding Hall is a novella told as if it were a documentary with each section being a monologue from a character speaking with the interviewer. After the tragic death of the original singer of the band, their manager sends them off to Wylding Hall to work on their next album free of distractions. But Wylding Hall is home to more than just their muse as each band member experiences something preternatural, culminating in a disappearance.
This novella started off strong, but I soon found it being strangled by its own formatting. The documentary style of the narration really pulled me away from the suspense and the horror, sanitizing it to the point that I didn’t feel any kind of thrill. This was truly disappointing because some of the novella’s elements (such as a dusty room filled to the brim with tiny bird corpses and a house whose corridors and layout changes at whim) were really intriguing, but it all fell flat.
One pet peeve was also the fact that, apparently, none of these band members spoke to each other – ever – about their experiences. Only now, with this documentary, have they ever shared it. Why? Why would they never discuss their experiences in the hall, especially after what happened in the end?
I also found it frustrating that a lot of the intriguing elements of the novella are never fully explored or explained. I can enjoy a good story that leaves some things a mystery, but this just never fully went into any kind of depth, which was a shame.
It was also a little hard for me to tell the characters apart in their monologues because all of their voices sounded so similar.
Overall, it was a good read. It just fell a little flat.
x P.L. McMillan