Saturday, November 13, 2010

The House of Dead Maids

In Clare B. Dunkle’s young adult novel The House of Dead Maids, orphaned Tabby Aykroyd arrives at Seldom House to be a caretaker and playmate to the young “master.” She is immediately haunted by ghosts of her predecessors and tries to save herself and her young charge from a similar fate.

Dunkle’s novel is a fast, enjoyable read and maintains a consistently unsettling atmosphere throughout. The book cover is one of the creepiest I’ve seen, but it also claims the novel is “A Chilling Prelude to Wuthering Heights.” Dunkle ties the story to the Brontë family in the last few pages; however, I found this maneuvering unfortunate and gimmicky. The book could easily stand alone as a dark glimpse into a pagan Victorian England and only loses credibility by trying to piggyback on the Brontës’ fame. Enjoy Dead Maids what it is and not for what it is trying to be.

Friday, November 5, 2010


Five-year-old Jack in Emma Donoghue's Room has lived in the same room since his birth. His mother, Ma, has lived there for seven years—ever since she was kidnapped by “Old Nick.” The story of their captivity is narrated by the young Jack.

A lot of buzz has surrounded Donoghue’s latest novel—I first heard about it on NPR—mostly because of the young narrator. Jack’s voice is definitely unique. However, it is also often jarringly inconsistent. At times, Jack sounds like a caveman. At other times, he has the vocabulary of a PhD. Many times, Jack’s narration distracts from an otherwise interesting story.

If you can get over Jack’s voice, the story of what Ma does to survive and to protect her son, and the consequences of their captivity, is an intriguing one. The reality of teenagers and children held captive for years seems to be becoming more prevalent, and I appreciate Donoghue’s attempt to tackle such a sensitive topic without being overly sentimental.