Dolly by Susan Hill


Profile Books|October 2012|153 pages|Library book|4*

Dolly: A Ghost Story is a small book – in size and in length and I read it very quickly. Although I think it is a supernatural tale I don’t think it is a ghost story. But it does have an uneasy foreboding and melancholic atmosphere, mainly set in a mysterious isolated country house in the Fens.

There is not much to say about it really. It’s the story of two children, cousins Edward and Leonora who spend a summer with their Aunt Kestrel at her house, Iyot Lock, a large decaying house in the Fens. Edward tries to get on with Leonora, an insufferably mean and spiteful child. Expecting a birthday present of a doll from her aunt, she has a tantrum when she is given a baby doll totally unlike the doll she wanted and breaks its head. From that point on strange things begin to happen with disastrous consequences.

It is well written and I relished the descriptive writing of the landscape, that oppressive feeling that the sky above is falling in on you that I’ve experienced in that area. The tension is there from the start and it gradually builds as events unfold and the storm clouds gather.  There are hints of evil as well as spite and malice, in Leonora and what happens to the doll and the cousins is where the supernatural element comes in. 

But I think the plot is too formulaic and I could easily foretell what was going to happen. To say what it reminded me of would be too much of a spoiler. The ending, as so often in short stories and novellas comes too quickly, but nevertheless I did enjoy reading it. There is a certain satisfaction in predicting what would happen and being right as opposed to getting to the end and expecting more. It made a pleasurable change as it filled a gap between longer and more demanding books.

Reading challenge: Virtual Mount TBR as it is a library book.

Library Loans

Here are some of my current library books

Lib bks July 2019

  • Dolly by Susan Hill, sub-titled ‘A Ghost Story’, a novella set in the Fens where two young cousins, Leonora and Edward spend a summer at Iyot Lock, a large decaying house, with their ageing aunt.  I’ll be writing more about this book soon.
  • Journey to Munich by Jacqueline Winspear, a Maisie Dobbs novel. This is no. 12 in the series (I’m not reading them in order). This one is set in 1938 when Molly travels into the heart of Nazi Germany.
  • The Trip to Jerusalem: an Elizabethan Mystery by Edward Marston, the 3rd book in the Nicholas Bracewell series about a troupe of players travelling England – not  to Jerusalem but to an ancient inn called The Trip to Jerusalem – whilst the Black Plague rages.
  • The Last Dance and other stories by Victoria Hislop. Ten stories set in Greece, described on the book cover as ‘bittersweet tales of love and loyalty, of separation and reconciliation’. I’ve recently enjoyed reading her latest book, Those Who Are Loved, also set in Greece, so my eye was drawn to this book.

The library van used to visit here once a fortnight, but now it only comes once a month. I hope it continues coming, but I fear that its days are numbered, so I make sure I use it whilst I still can.