EXCERPT: He took hold of the knob and turned it. The door swung open and the ice-cold air trapped behind it spilled out.
Isak gasped. I blinked; looked again.
Inside the room was nothing but darkness; not even a silvering of moonlight.
And it was empty.
No light was glowing, no flame flickered, nobody was there.
Only the rocking chair moved, rocking forwards and backwards as if whoever had been sitting in it had, a moment earlier, got up and left the room.
ABOUT ‘THE ROOM IN THE ATTIC’: A child who does not know her name…
In 1903 fishermen find a wrecked boat containing a woman, who has been badly beaten, and a young girl. An ambulance is sent for, and the two survivors are taken to All Hallows, the imposing asylum, hidden deep on Dartmoor. The woman remains in a coma, but the little girl, who the staff name Harriet, awakens and is taken to an attic room, far away from the noise of the asylum, and is put in the care of Nurse Emma Everdeen.
Two motherless boys banished to boarding school…
In 1993, All Hallows is now a boarding school. Following his mother’s death and his father’s hasty remarriage, Lewis Tyler is banished to Dartmoor, stripped of his fashionable clothes, shorn of his long hair, and left feeling more alone than ever. There he meets Isak, another lost soul, and whilst refurbishment of the dormitories is taking place, the boys are marooned up in the attic, in an old wing of the school.
Cries and calls from the past that can no longer be ignored…
All Hallows is a building full of memories, whispers, cries from the past. As Lewis and Isak learn more about the fate of Harriet, and Nurse Emma’s desperate fight to keep the little girl safe, it soon becomes clear there are ghosts who are still restless.
Are they ghosts the boys hear at night in the room above, are they the unquiet souls from the asylum still caught between the walls? And can Lewis and Isak bring peace to All Hallows before the past breaks them first…
MY THOUGHTS: I became totally absorbed in The Room in the Attic, the first book I have read by author Louise Douglas. She has written an eerily atmospheric book that took me quite by surprise.
I was sitting in my reading chair, totally engrossed, when my cat, who had been asleep across the top of the back, jumped down onto the arm of the chair, then my lap. My husband swears that I shot a good foot into the air and squealed in fright. It’s not often that a book has that effect on me. The cat, Tighe, while disgruntled, was unharmed. My pounding heart took a little longer to recover. My husband is unlikely to let me forget this any time soon.
An old lunatic asylum is the perfect setting for this story; A large, old, gothic building, full of unexplained sounds and dark corners with a tragic history is a fitting backdrop for the story Louise Douglas tells.
The story is told over two timelines: 1903 when All Hallows is still an asylum and takes in a woman who is found unconscious, and a child presumed to be her daughter; and 1993 when Lewis and Isak are pupils there, sleeping in the room directly under the room in the attic where the young child was murdered.
An asylum in the early 1900s was no refuge. There was no treatment for mental illness. Violent or troublesome patients were chained to the walls, and most were heavily sedated. Some of the drugs given actually caused hallucinations. Such places were very easy to be admitted to; few people got to leave other than in a coffin.
All Hallows as a school was not a much more inviting establishment than it was as an asylum. Bullying and corporal punishment are the norm; the staff border on brutal.
The characters in both time frames are beautifully crafted. 1993 – Lewis and Isak, both motherless, have been sent to All Hallows by their fathers basically to get them out of the way. Lewis’s father has remarried and Lewis is not liked nor understood by his new stepmother. Isak’s father simply hasn’t the time for him – he is far too busy in politics to be bothered with a grieving son.
1903 – Nurse Emma is getting on in years and no longer able to carry out the heavier duties of her job. She is still grieving for the loss of her young son many years previously and so she is given the task of caring for the young child who was admitted alongside the unconscious mystery woman. There are no shifts, no relief. It’s a 24/7 task, locked in the attic with only another nurse, Maria, to bring meals, clean linen, and gossip from the wards below.
The tie-in between these two threads is incredibly clever; the resolution immensely satisfying. The writing is haunting and emotionally apt. I can’t wait to read more from this author.
I: @louisedouglas3 @bookandtonic
T: @LouiseDouglas3 @BoldwoodBooks
#fivestarread #gothic #historicalfiction #mystery #paranormal #suspense
THE AUTHOR: Hello and thank you for visiting my profile page. I write contemporary Gothic novels which are usually inspired by places close to where I live in the Mendips, close to Bristol in the UK, or by places I’ve visited, especially Italy and Sicily.
DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Boldwood Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Room in the Attic by Louise Douglas for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com
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