Set in the dank dark landscape of the English fens, orphan Edward Cayley is sent to spend the summer with his Aunt Kestrel, whom he has never met. With him is his spoilt and spiteful cousin Leonora, also visiting for the summer. After Leonora’s birthday wish for a beautiful Indian doll is not fulfilled, the furious rage she unleashes unsettles Edward and haunts him for many years to come. Years later when Edward and Leonora are the only surviving members of the family, he returns to the the fens, and discovers the frightening consequences of Leonora’s actions, which are inescapable…
‘In the distance he heard the sound of paper rustling and the muffled crying of Dolly, buried beneath the earth.’
The problem with reading ghost stories by Susan Hill, is that her fans expect it to be as good (if not better) than The Woman in Black. While I will say this one isn’t quite as frightening, I also don’t think they’re particularly comparable. Dolly is quite a short story, only 153 pages long, but it feels a lot shorter. The majority of the book is leading up to the terrifying consequences of Leonora’s actions, which means that 80% of the story is spent on the edge of your seat waiting…
‘The grasses whisper, the wind moves among the gravestones. And somewhere just about here, by the low wall, another sound, not like the grass but like paper rustling. But there is no paper.’
What I liked the most, were her brilliant descriptions of the English fens, and the old gothic decaying house. Her writing style is such that you could read any of her books and be happy just reading her atmospheric writing, even if the story isn’t perfect. I would however highly recommend Dolly – it is a short but intriguing ghost story, great for reading in front of the fire on a winter’s evening. Just don’t expect it to be the next Woman in Black.
Original Book Girl