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Dolly (2012)

by Susan Hill

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19114114,414 (3.19)13
Susan Hill, author of "Woman in Black", is the greatest living writer of ghost stories, and here is a perfect chiller: a story of two damaged children filled with unease, the supernatural and horror. The remoter parts of the English Fens are forlorn, lost and damp even in the height of summer. At Iyot Lock, a large decaying house, two young cousins, Leonora and Edward are parked for the summer with their ageing spinster aunt and her cruel housekeeper. At first the unpleasantness and petty meannesses seem simply unpleasant, calculated to destroy Edward's equanimity. But when spoilt Leonora is not given the birthday present of a specific dolly that she wants, affairs inexorably take a much darker turn with terrifying, life destroying, consequences for everyone.… (more)
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    The Woman in Black by Susan Hill (KayCliff)
    KayCliff: The endings of the two stories are so similar.
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The taste of the fog came into my mouth and its damp web touched my skin. But through its felted layers, from far away, I heard it again, half in my own head, half out there, and then everything came vividly back, the scene with Leonora in Aunt Kestrel's sitting room, her rage, the crack of the china head against the fireplace, my own fear, prompting my heart to leap in my chest. All, all of it I remembered--no, re-lived, my heart pounding again, as I stood at the window and through the fog-blanketed darkness heard the sound again.

Deep under the earth, inside its cardboard coffin, shrouded in the layers of white paper, the china doll with the jagged open crevasse in its skull was crying.


How could a story containing these lines be anything other than awesome? This book should have been so, so much better than it was. I've thought about it now for a couple days and I'm still so disgusted with it that I've decided the initial three star mark was much too generous, so I'm bumping it down. Susan Hill is unfortunately headed for the same place as Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft, which is not praise from me. Sure, she can write in the sense of stringing great words together. (Man, can she write in that sense!) But she does not seem to understand how to hang a blasted story together.

This one starts out great (all her books do), and picks one theme (too many themes was the downfall of [b:The Mist in the Mirror|678362|The Mist in the Mirror|Susan Hill|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1420351953s/678362.jpg|664356]), but, like [b:The Small Hand|8675320|The Small Hand A Ghost Story|Susan Hill|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327926842s/8675320.jpg|13547206], the mystery is inexplicably set aside by the protagonist in favor of business trips, and unlike The Small Hand, the curse is not well thought out or executed. Also, most of the plot relies on one of my least favorite of all tropes, the protagonist who, golly gee whiz, just cannot remember the horrible traumatic thing that happened or what the significance of it might be.

So, the writing is great, the horror is shocking, but the story is succumbs to stupid. Avoid.

(Note: I read this in the omnibus, [b:The Small Hand and Dolly|17288633|The Small Hand and Dolly|Susan Hill|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1369779573s/17288633.jpg|23909819]. I prefer to review bundled books separately.) ( )
  amyotheramy | May 11, 2021 |
I had high hopes for this short book, having very much enjoyed I'm the King of the Castle and The Woman in Black. However, nothing about the story really amounts to anything. It has a number of the ingredients of a ghost story - spooky old house, weird children, lovely old aunt and grumpy old maid, isolated, lonesome setting, and, well - a doll or two. The 'reveal', if there is one, just repeats itself.

I kept on reading, thinking that although the writing wasn't particularly prosaic, all the rustling and screaming and crying, and the summer heat, rain and Bagatelle, must be building to something worthwhile.

Then I reached the end and realised that the denouement was about as unsurprising and unrewarding a climax to any novel/novella, that I have read in a long time. Some of the atmospherics are good, especially when describing Edward's first impressions of Iyot House and it's inhabitants, and his first, hesitant impressions of his cousin, the awful Leonora.

I still plan to explore more of Susan Hill's work, but this one was disappointing. ( )
  jammy78 | Feb 28, 2021 |
An unusual tale threaded with a constant undercurrent of menace. It's labelled as a ghost story but I don't think that's really what's going on here. It's something else, nameless, darker. The style feels slightly archaic but it serves to create the perfect atmosphere. ( )
  AngelaJMaher | Dec 2, 2020 |
Hill writes setting like nobody's business. The atmosphere in this story is dense and dreary and teeters on the edge of danger the entire 153 pages.

But the climax, as the narrator refers to it, is revealed and wrapped up REALLY fast, in 5 pages to be exact. If I weren't so freaked out by dolls in general, I'm afraid I would have been disappointed.

P.S. I'm not sure why this is called "a ghost story" unless the china doll is cursed after its burial? And, when dug up, that curse attaches itself to Edward and Leonora?
  flying_monkeys | Oct 8, 2019 |
Well written but predictable chiller from Susan Hill. Edward, the narrator, is a grown man who revisits Iyot House, the eerie and isolated scene of several of his childhood summers. During one stay at the house, he meets his cousin Leonora, a complete horror of a child with a surprisingly mean streak. That summer effects their lives forever.
Hill’s writing style makes the book, along with her portrayal of Edward as a child. But the book’s plot is trite and the ending “surprise” can be seen a mile off.
If you like stylish horror, and haven’t read too many of the classics in the genre, this would work for you. But if you’ve read a few of the Victorian and Edwardian chilling tales, this will seem a bit musty and stale. ( )
  bohemima | Jun 1, 2018 |
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It was a November afternoon when I returned to Iyot Lock and saw that nothing had changed.
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Susan Hill, author of "Woman in Black", is the greatest living writer of ghost stories, and here is a perfect chiller: a story of two damaged children filled with unease, the supernatural and horror. The remoter parts of the English Fens are forlorn, lost and damp even in the height of summer. At Iyot Lock, a large decaying house, two young cousins, Leonora and Edward are parked for the summer with their ageing spinster aunt and her cruel housekeeper. At first the unpleasantness and petty meannesses seem simply unpleasant, calculated to destroy Edward's equanimity. But when spoilt Leonora is not given the birthday present of a specific dolly that she wants, affairs inexorably take a much darker turn with terrifying, life destroying, consequences for everyone.

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Book description
Susan Hill, author of "Woman in Black", is the greatest living writer of ghost stories, and here is a perfect chiller: a story of two damaged children filled with unease, the supernatural and horror. The remoter parts of the English Fens are forlorn, lost and damp even in the height of summer. At Iyot House, a large decaying house, two young cousins, Leonora and Edward, are parked for the summer with their ageing widowed aunt and her cruel housekeeper. At first the unpleasantness and petty meannesses seem simply unpleasant, calculated to destroy Edward's equanimity. But when spoilt Leonora is not given the birthday present of a specific dolly that she wants, affairs inexorably take a much darker turn with terrifying, life destroying, consequences for everyone.
Haiku summary
"I don't want this doll,
I hate it!" "You must treat your
Toys well, child, or else ..."
(passion4reading)

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