This month I have another Gothic offering to enthusiastically recommend: Wylding Hall, by Elizabeth Hand.
[Is the above the UK cover? The PB edition? Not sure, but I like it.]
Synopsis (from the publisher):
When the young members of a British acid-folk band — known as Windhollow Faire — 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?
An excerpt from band member Will:
The House was a glorious wreck. Like some drunken grande dame who’s lost everything except the clothes and jewels she’s wearing and refuses to leave the after-party. I’ve known a few of those girls.
It wasn’t immense. It wasn’t Hogwarts or Manderly or Downton Abbey. But it was big and sprawling, and it was ancient. The oldest parts were pre-Norman — by “parts” I mean a few ruined brick walls out by the garden. Julian said there’d been an ancient Bronze Age settlement on the grounds, and he would know — that’s Julian’s thing, arcane knowledge.
My thoughts about Wylding Hall:
This one is a little slow to start, mostly because there’s a large-ish cast of characters to get to know, but soon enough I was wrapped up in the mystery and couldn’t put the book down. I love stories about quirky creatives who attempt to put their egos aside in order to collaborate on something beautiful. I especially love this scenario when a creepy element surfaces. I’m rather fascinated by British folk horror, though I haven’t seen or read as much of it as I’d like. (The Wicker Man and The Loney are the film and novel that come to mind when I think of folk horror, and now I’m ready for a deep dive into the genre.)
For those of you who get a little nervous about horror, I can assure you that the format of this novel helps to cushion the reader from the spooky stuff, mostly because we’re hearing the story long after it happened. I also appreciated the humor that pops up here and there. (There are some characters in this novel, to be sure.) Wylding Hall is creepy and weird, but it’s more quirky mystery than hard-core horror.
*By the way, there’s a really good audio version of the book. I think the story format lends itself to audio, and the voice actors do an excellent job. Check this Amazon link for more information
**Also, check out this article from Tor: On the Edges of a Haunting: Elizabeth Hand’s Wylding Hall
Now for tea:
Because the setting and characters of this novel are so quirky, I decided to make a very conventional afternoon snack — scones from the Garvey’s mix (I added blueberries) along with caffeine-free Little Dickens from Bellocq. Perfect for a p.m. snack!