Book Review | The Whispering House

Title: The Whispering House

Author: Elizabeth Brooks

Publisher: Doubleday

Published: 6 August 2020

Pages: 352

Content Warnings: emotional abuse, suicide, chronic illness, self-harm, and physical abuse

Rating: 2 out of 5.

If I can do one good thing for people it would be telling them to not read this book. It is a waste of time, and I want those hours back. The story starts off with Freya (and her dad) at a cousin’s wedding. Freya is still reeling from her sister’s death (suicide) and is pretty drunk when she goes into the house: Byrne Hall. The house is forbidden from being entered by the guests but Freya just ignores that. Once in she sees a portrait that evokes her late sister, Stella. Several weeks later Freya as this inexplicable longing to go back to Byrne Hall. Once there she meets Cory, a young artist (the summary on most sites say he’s handsome and enigmatic but I think he’s just weird and creepy). Freya plans to stay for a few days but this leads to a longer and longer stay, driven to remain not just by Byrne Hall itself, but this strange mother-and-son who inhabit it. Freya’s decision to stay at Byrne Hall sets off an “unexpected” chain of events.

The part that frustrates me the most about the book is the fact that Freya is still reeling from her sister’s death five years later. I understand and am not in any way saying that there is a timeline on grief but I also think there does need to be healthy coping mechanisms which are not in place for Freya or her dad. Most of the time I had to remind myself that Freya was in her late 20s, and not late teens or early 20s because many of her decisions felt like from a woman who is much younger.

The other characters in the book are just not really developed, more like caricatures. For instance, Freya’s dad is an art critic and that’s basically his entire personality even when he’s not critiquing art. Cory is not an enigmatic person, he’s a rich (I know him and his mom are not rich anymore but he still has the air of someone who is titled gentry), entitled, white boy who can’t figure out what he wants to do with his life, so he ran back home to mommy. The most we ever know of Cory’s mom is that she’s ill, as she really is just a plot device for the book, the old (and maybe mad) woman in the attic of a gothic novel.

The plot really fell flat for me. Again, many of the decisions from Freya felt way to immature for her age and even for someone in grief. The whole gothic/haunted house plot was pretty thin and didn’t really go anywhere as you find out that it was just Cory’s mom the whole time. Then the ending is pretty blasé, the readers find out what happened to Stella but there is never any indication that Freya finds out. Freya goes back home and it seems forms a romantic relationship with her long-term friend, Tom (the only decent character in the book), but it’s never clear. I’m not someone who hates murky books, but I like my books to make sense and be interesting and this did not his the mark.

Happy (Not) Reading Darlings!

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