River Heights Book Review

The books you'll want to read.

WYLDING HALL by Elizabeth Hand

WyldingHallWYLDING HALL by Elizabeth Hand
MysteriousPress.com/Open Road (eBook)
July 14, 2015

“As we now know, an encounter with the beating heart of Wylding Hall leaves no one unscathed, even—or especially—the members of Windhollow Faire.”

When a member of British acid-folk group Windhollow Faire falls to her death in London, the band’s manager decides the remaining musicians should escape to Wylding Hall and regroup. At first, it seems his idea was a good one; the ancient country estate inspires an entire album’s worth of new material, all of it brilliant. But then lead singer Julian Blake vanishes into the house without a trace, and just like that, Windhollow Faire is through.

Decades later, a documentary filmmaker sets out to discover what really happened at Wylding Hall that fateful summer. This is that story, in the survivors’ own words.

THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE meets HOUSE OF LEAVES by way of BEHIND THE MUSIC, Elizabeth Hand’s contemporary gothic novella, WYLDING HALL, is pure magic—and I’m not 100% certain that’s metaphor. It’s at once the tale of an idyllic summer—full of “kingfisher days and golden nights”—and a dreadful nightmare. Hand writes with elegance, power, and passion about the spell that music can cast and the sorcery that is its creation. Her prose enchants from page one, transporting you to another place and time and making you resent the real world when it has the audacity to intrude.

The interview conceit is wonderfully effective at building tension; having the cast collaborate to tell the story of WYLDING HALL—like a band playing a piece of music—allows Hand to dole out details like an illicit drug, causing you to hang on every word lest you miss something crucial. It also forces you to wonder whether you’re getting the whole story. Are any of the narrators unreliable? Are all of them? How could you possibly know? And Hand makes excellent use of the form to develop her cast. Each interviewee has a voice so singular you can tell who’s talking without looking at the attributing header, and you learn a lot about each character from their storytelling style.

When the curtains close, you’re left with the sense you know the truth—it hovers in your periphery, but if you turn to look at it straight on, it’ll disappear. The ending’s ambiguous enough to irritate those who hate loose ends, but I actually wish Hand had been just a little more vague; what’s scarier than the unknown? Regardless, I flat-out adored WYLDING HALL. If you love music and you’re a fan of good horror, Elizabeth Hand’s latest is a must-read.

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This entry was posted on June 8, 2015 by in Horror, Reviews and tagged , , , .
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