Thursday, September 3, 2015

Wylding Hall by Elizabeth Hand

It was 1972 and the members of Windhollow Faire were getting ready to record their second album. Unfortunately, at the time they were all still reeling from the suicide of one of their former members and were more than aware that the decision to replace her was likely the cause of her death. Their producer decided the best solution was to get the band out of London, away from the big city, and Wylding Hall seemed to be exactly what they all needed. A tumbledown historic manor in the middle of nowhere, miles away from any outside influence and stress, Wylding Hall was to be a sanctuary and inspiration. A place for the band to produce and record tracks for their upcoming album. 

But strange things happened at Wylding Hall. Things no one has any explanation for even decades after the fact. 

The premise of this story is an interview of sorts taking place present day. The mystery of what happened to Windhollow Faire at Wylding Hall has never been solved and has apparently been the source of much theorizing throughout the intervening years. Of course that theorizing has also brought about a resurgence in popularity of the album recorded at the manor.

I love, love, love Elizabeth Hand's use of folklore, superstition, and music. Windhollow Faire are a folk band of sorts, though they don't necessarily like to categorize themselves that way, and many of their songs are interpretations of old folk ballads. And many of those have a dark history behind them. A lot of the story is left up to the reader's imagination, but the clues are there like crumbs leading the way to an obvious conclusion. I don't want to spoil it for you, but I will say that I did some follow up hunting on some of the songs and traditions mentioned and they are quite creepy indeed. More so when taken alongside Hand's tale.

Wylding Hall is a slow burn of a read for sure. It's all about the atmosphere, in fact, and it's got that in spades! From the start, there's a definite ominous tone to the story and it's that tone that draws you through much of the tale. In other words you know something bad is coming but you're not sure what it is and it isn't until almost the end that it's finally revealed. I absolutely loved it!

I might add that this is the kind of book you want to read late at night, when everyone else is asleep - or you're home all by your lonesome. I was - hubs was out for the evening and I took full advantage of it by binging on horror. I know, I know. It's not everyone's thing. Wylding Hall was satisfyingly creepy and made for an awesome evening for me, though!

Rating: 4/5

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