Debut novelist Miller concocts a blend of Gothic horror and spine-tingling mystery.
Elizabeth feels lonely and forgotten when her father moves her to his ancestral home, Witheringe House, after her mother abandons the two of them. At least best friend Zenobia has come along, though with her contrary nature, Zenobia is not exactly a comfort. She’s also not exactly real. That is, not to anyone except Elizabeth. Aussie Miller sets her tale in the gauzy nebulousness of the early 20th century, delivering a stunning slow burn full of creepy atmospheric tension and heartbreaking loneliness. The back-and-forth dialogue between Elizabeth and her imaginary companion is laced with tension—give and take—illustrating the tumultuous extremes of Elizabeth’s psyche. Add a family nursery and wallpaper gardens in which the plant life appears real, a family cemetery, plus an alter ego in search of spirits from beyond and an ending as unpredictable as the beginning or middle—and what readers get is a fascinating tale that feels like Edgar Allen Poe, revisited. Miller’s painstaking crafting of language and attention to atmospheric detail create a clever story where nothing is as it seems. Drawings reminiscent of Gorey and references to gloomy classic poetry add beguiling texture.
Eerie and dazzling—a perfect book for a dark and stormy afternoon or a favorite graveyard reading spot. (Horror. 9-13)