What if you believed there was a ghost haunting the house in which you were living? How would you discover the truth? Who would you speak to about such a thing? How could you be sure you weren’t going insane? These are the very questions Eliza Caine wrestles with as the new governess at Gaudlin Hall in John Boyne’s THIS HOUSE IS HAUNTED.
Eliza Caine is a young woman from London, teaching young girls, when her simple life is altered by the tragic loss of her father. At twenty-one, alone with no prospects of marriage she chances upon a general advertisement for a governess and impulsively decides to apply. Within days she is extended the position, accepts and boards a train to Norfolk, all without a formal interview or any more details regarding her new charges.
From the moment she debarks the train Eliza enters a world of strangers and even stranger occurrences. Norfolk being a small town has all the hallmarks of a tight nit community. Everyone seems to know something, but no one really wants to talk to the outsider. Eliza is steadily determined to learn all that she can and pursues every avenue of information in an effort to piece together the mystery that surrounds her charges and the house they live in.
In addition to the mystery of the ghost there are interesting little nods to Charles Dickens and Jane Austen. And while neither has anything really to do with the mystery their mentions help Eliza to be a fully fleshed character as this story is her first-person narrative. Eliza’s perspective is sensible and practical and peppered with errant thoughts. She works through things much the same as anyone.
While a story could be told from beginning to end with a pure focus on relevant events the truth is that most people do occasionally become distracted, sometimes even looking specifically to be distracted from their troubles. In this way the reader is drawn into Eliza’s experience as she sifts through what happens, the information she gathers, the questions she has, and the occasional memory or fancy. It is more than a story, and this is what makes the hairs rise on the back of your neck with each eerie event. If you are looking for a good ghost story, this is one that will have you burning a candle into the wee hours, first to finish and then so as not to be left in the dark.