The House at Midnight by Lucie Whitehouse
Published by: Random House Publishing
Published on: June, 2008
Page Count: 336
Genre: Gothic fiction
My Reading Format: Audiobook purchased with a credit from Audible.com.
Available Formats: Hardcover, paperback, eBook, audiobook
The House at Midnight tells the story of Joanna and her group of college friends. They are entering their later 20s and starting to get more settled into their adult lives. As the story begins, Lucas, Joanna’s best friend, inherits his Uncle Patrick’s estate after his suicide. Lucas adored Patrick, especially since he became like a father to him after his father’s apparent suicide decades earlier. Patrick was a wealthy and well respected art dealer. While Lucas never lacked for money growing up, his new-found wealth leaves him uncomfortable. He opens up the estate to their group of friends on the weekends as a place for them to come and relax after the weeks spend in London. The group was rounded out by Danny, Michael, Martha, Rachel, and Rachel’s boyfriend Greg. Joanna has always been attracted to Lucas, but their relationship never developed into anything more until they started meeting at Stoneborough Manor. Once their romantic relationship began, Danny, who had been Lucas’ boyhood friend, became increasingly hostile toward Joanna. Lucas didn’t see this change and at first Joanna tried to blow it all off due to the trouble’s Danny was having with his job. When Lucas decided to move to Stoneborough permanently with Danny, who lost his job, the situation became increasingly intolerable. The house even felt hostile and oppressive to her. When Joanna is forced to make a drastic decision about her future and her romantic life, Lucas, her career, and her friendships start to deteriorate.
I love Gothic novels set in old English manners. That is what first appealed to me when I selected this novel from Audible.com. Although The House at Midnight is set in current time, those places can be deliciously eiry and full of mystery. The Thirteenth Tale, The Sister, and The Little Stranger are all strong examples of what I love in stories of this genre. Lucie Whitehouse’s first novel did not live up to my expectations. Joanna’s narration about the house being somehow haunted was the only thing that really spoke to the house having any power at all. I wouldn’t have come up with that on my own. The triangle between Joanna, Lucas, and Danny had enough tension in and of itself. This would have been enough on its own, especially if there had been payoff. As it was, the house really got in the way. The situation between the friends was more uncomfortable than the house. Perhaps this is because there wasn’t any subtlety about it.
I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy The House at Midnight. It had its moments. I really got involved in the story when Joanna happens upon Rachel and Greg in a compromising position. I wish that more had come of Danny’s knowledge of this incident than what did ultimately. The ending held some surprises but some missed opportunities as well. There was some great potential to make Danny in to one heck of an intriguing villain. The proposed influence of the house took up too much energy.
The House at Midnight was narrated by Kate Reading. As I started listening to this audiobook, I was trying to figure out where I had heard her voice before. She was the female narrator in Chemistry for Beginners. Although her male voices were a bit strange, I got used to them rather quickly. I would definitely listen to another of her audiobooks. She does very well with the voice of contemporary British women.
My Final Thoughts
This book is definitely worth a try if you enjoy Gothic fiction. If you do, I would rent it from the library instead of buying it. I will be interested to see what Lucie Whitehouse writes next.
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