Dolly : A Ghost Story, Paperback Book
3 out of 5 (2 ratings)


The remoter parts of the English Fens are forlorn, lost and damp even in the height of summer.

At Iyot Lock, a large decaying house, two young cousins, Leonora and Edward, are parked for the summer with their ageing spinster aunt and her cruel housekeeper.

At first the unpleasantness and petty meannesses appear simply spiteful, calculated to destroy Edward's equanimity.

But when spoilt Leonora is not given the birthday present of a specific dolly that she wants, affairs inexorably take a much darker turn with terrifying, life-destroying consequences for everyone.


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Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.

Review by

Two cousins spend a childhood summer with their aunt at spooky old Iyot House in the middle of the fens. One of them, shy Edward, is the narrator of the tale. The other, spoiled and wicked Leonora, unleashes a curse with her furious tantrum over a disappointing birthday present.[Dolly: A Ghost Story] was a bit of a let-down. I’ve read [The Woman in Black] and [The Small Hand], also by Susan Hill, and both of those were much better. The trouble with [Dolly] is that, though creepy, the story just isn’t coherent. TWiB and TSH both featured not only frightening episodes, but also dark secrets from the past brought gradually to light. There’s mystery as well as horror in both books, and the creeping horror makes a kind of terrible sense. They’re a sharp contrast with [Dolly], where it’s sort of suggested that maybe Leonora is possessed, but then again maybe not, or not always, and if she is then it’s never explained what spirit possesses her. I kept waiting for the big reveal of some dreadful event from the past, but it never came. Instead the story just stumbles forward on the premise that Leonora is a horrible child and is therefore cursed. Edward makes a somewhat insipid narrator as well, and the plot device of ‘I did this thing because I simply felt compelled to do it’ is greatly overused.

Review by

Orphaned Edward Cayley is going to spend the summer holidays with his Aunt Kestrel at Iyot House in the Cambridgeshire fens. In order to make him feel more at home, his aunt invites Edward's cousin Leonora, who is of a similar age to Edward, to spend the summer at the house as well. But Leonora is a spoilt and wilful child, and matters come to a head on her birthday, when, instead of a doll she has wanted for years, she receives a simple, plain china doll. In her frustration and rage, she throws the doll at the fireplace, breaking it. Edward, a quiet child, wants to avoid another confrontation at all costs and disposes of the broken doll in the only way he can think of. Only years later will he need to remember those events in his childhood again.I agree with one reviewer here that Dolly comes in parts fairly close to Susan Hill's best-known work, The Woman in Black, though I feel that the author/publisher has mislabelled the book in subtitling it a ghost story - which it clearly isn't. I thought the beginning, with its evocative and atmospheric description of the fens, was marvellous, and reminiscent of Chris Priestley's The Dead of Winter. After about a third of the way through, the atmosphere and the tension start to level off, though the sense of unease grows again towards the end. Certain events surrounding the doll are never properly explained, which is probably as it should be, but minor niggles remain, and the end is certainly unsettling.Well worth a read if you like your fiction with a slight supernatural edge to it.

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