Skip to main content

Review: The House at Midnight, by Lucie Whitehouse

The House at Midnight is the first novel by British author Lucie Whitehouse. Neo-Gothic in tone, the story is primarily about the relationships between seven friends from college: Joanna (the narrator), Lucas, Danny, Michael, Martha, Rachel, and Greg. When Lucas inherits Stoneborough Manor from his uncle Patrick, he encourages his friends to treat the mysterious old house as their own. Soon, Joanna finds herself in a romantic relationship with Lucas, he decides to move in with his parasitic friend Danny, and things get trickier when Joanna discovers Rachel and Greg in a compromising position on the floor one night.

There’s a whole slew of interchangeable (and sticky) relationships between these seven characters, characterized by a lot of drinking and drug-taking. It took the author six years to write, and I get the feeling that she began the novel thinking that she originally intended the characters to be younger than they eventually turned out to be. Although approaching the age of thirty, all of these people act as though they’re still in college and trying to figure out their lives. The novel is heavy on the relationships between these characters and not so heavy on character development and plot. Even Joanna, the narrator, isn’t a particularly attractive character; she’s a little bland, and blasé about her career, relationships, and future.

I picked up this novel because I thought that this would be a Gothic type of novel, similar to Barbara Vine’s work; but the key to writing a Gothic novel is using subtlety, which this book doesn’t have. It seems as though the reader is repeatedly hit over the head with how eerie Stoneborough Manor is, or appears to be. Also, the ending, while truly unexpected, seemed a little bit tacked-on. I give the author props for writing about what she knows best, and for the intriguing premise of the novel; but the execution of that premise ultimately falls flat. This book has been compared to Donna Tartt’s The Secret History; and while I see superficial similarities between the two books, The House at Midnight doesn’t even come close to the other.


Anonymous said…
Sounds like maybe a good beach read, no? Sometimes I like these mixed-up relationship books. Especially since my life is pretty tame.
bethany said…
oh, I have this....and need to read it!!! thanks for the review. I should get with it!

ps thanks for visiting my blog :)
Terri B. said…
Thanks for the review! I got a free copy of this last week at ALA. I'm looking forward to reading it.
Alea said…
The cover definitely gives off a sort of creepy, gothic, mysterious vibe. Sounds interesting... and that title!
Katherine said…
Has anyone actually read my review of this book?
Alea said…
Haha! Yes. It still sounds kind of interesting though! The cover is semi-misleading it sounds like, but also maybe a little romantic.
Lenore said…
Thanks for the brutally honest review. I sure love that cover though. I think it's that shade of green. Gets me every time :)

Popular posts from this blog

Review: Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor

Pages: 972 Originally published: 1944 My edition: 2000 (Chicago Review Press) How I acquired my copy:, 2004

Forever Amber takes place in the 1660s, immediately follwing Charles II's ("the Merry Monarch") return of the Stuarts to the English throne. The book features Amber St. Claire, a young woman who starts out as a sixteen-year-old country girl, naieve to the workings of the world. She immediately meets Bruce Carlton, a dashing young Cavalier, with whom she has a passionate love affair in choppy intervals throughout the book. They have two children together, but Bruce won't marry her for the reason he tells his friend Lord Almsbury: that Amber just isn't the kind of woman one marries.

Upon following Bruce to London, he goes to Virginia, leaving her to fend for herself. What follows is a series of affairs and four marriages, with Bruce coming back from America now and then. Amber's marriages are imprudent: her first husband is a gambler, her second is…

Review: Jane Austen's Letters, ed. by Deirdre Le Faye

Pages: 667 Original date of publication: 2011 My copy: 2011 (Oxford University Press) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy:, April 2013
This is a compilation of many of Jane Austen’s letters, most of them sent to her sister Cassandra between 1796 and 1817, the year of her death. Although many of Austen’s letters were destroyed by her sister in order to preserve the family reputation, the collection contains over 160 letters in which Austen gives her sister details about her life in Chawton—as well as giving us a tantalizing glimpse of what was going through her mind as she was writing her novels (especially the novel that was to become Pride and Prejudice, First Impressions). There are other letters here, too, giving advice to her niece and professional correspondence to publishers—as well as a couple of letters that were written by Cassandra Austen after Jane’s death.
To the sisters, the letters acted in the way that phone calls do today; Austen’s news is all about pe…

Review: Midnight in Peking, by Paul French

Pages: 259 Original date of publication: 2013 My copy: 2013 (Penguin) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy: Phoenix bookstore, May 2013
In January 1937, the body of a young British girl, Pamela Werner, was found near Peking’s Fox Tower. Although two detectives, one British and the other Chinese, spent months on the case, the case was never solved completely, and the case was forgotten in the wake of the invasion of the Japanese. Frustrated, Pamela’s father, a former diplomat, tried to solve the crime. His investigation took him into the underbelly of Peking society and uncovered a secret that was worse than anything he could have imagined.
At first, I thought that this would be a pretty straightforward retelling of a true crime, but what Paul French (who spent seven years researching the story) reveals in this book is much more than that. Foreign society in Peking in the 1930s was stratified, with the British colonials at the top and the White Russian refugees at the bottom, but…