Wylding Hall

February 26, 2018 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, )

wyldingWylding Hall by Elizabeth Hand


I saw this on sale in December, saw that it was an award-winning novella, and saw that it was compared favorably to The Haunting of Hill House, so of course I bought it. I was tempted to read it in a rush, but forced myself to slow down and savor it, looking for the secrets behind the story that Shirley Jackson did so well in her novel. I’m pleased to say this is the best way to approach the story.

The book is about a folk band reminiscing on the days when they recorded their now-famous album some thirty-plus years ago. It’s told in an epistolary style, as if the story is a collection of interviews with the principle people involved with the recording. It works well, in that Hand creates a unique voice for each character, but it’s also a little confusing to remember who is who, since the narrative involves more than just the members of the band. By the halfway point, I was able to remember who was who, but it took a little time, and in retrospect, I wish I had taken some notes to help me remember.

What makes the story interesting is that one of the band members disappeared during the recording of the album, never to be seen again. This isn’t a spoiler (it’s mentioned early in the novella), but it gives the story and interesting spin, since we’re in the position of learning about the principle person involved with the recordings without ever getting his own perspective on things. It reminded me a bit of The Sound and the Fury, in that they both have that theme, though Hand’s story is much, much easier to read.

For most of the book, the supernatural element is a tiny part of the story, and couldn’t be described as unsettling, or even spooky, but near the end, Hand shows us how deftly she can build the story to its one defining moment. It’s a genuinely spooky moment, though it isn’t graphic or even violent, and remembering it now still sends chills up my arms. For most of the story, the creatures seem ordinary, and like The Haunting of Hill House, the supernatural moments could be explained away (in this case by drug-induced hallucinations), except for some key details. The build-up takes a while, and the conclusion comes quickly, but the payoff is worth it.

I’m glad I read this novella, since the only other books of Hand’s I’ve read are her Boba Fett juvenile novels, which weren’t impressive. I’m glad to see she handles horror so well, and I look forward to seeing what she can do with a full-length novel.

Started: December 13, 2017
Finished: December 16, 2017

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