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  • Mandy McHugh

The Whispering House, Elizabeth Brooks: A Review

4.5 Stars Tin House has put out some amazing titles this year, and next year is looking just as good. As soon as I read the blurb for The Whispering House, I knew I had to request it. I was thrilled to be approved and quickly dove in.

Five years after the death of her older sister, Freya returns to Byrne Hall as a wedding guest. Unnerved by the proximity to where her sister was found, she sneaks inside the sprawling house for some privacy and believes she finds a picture of Stella. Back home and restless, she decides to return to Byrne to question the residents, for closure or answers, she's not sure, but she knows she has to do it. The trip, however, becomes much more than a weekend away, and soon Freya finds herself enamored with Cory Byrne. What follows is a journey through love, obsession, and the toxicity of control. I really enjoyed this book. To me, this was gothic psychological suspense at its finest. First, we get a family clinging to the vestiges of generational wealth, having sold their belongings but hiding their disparity behind the façade of a large and eerie manor by the sea. We also get Freya, who embodies a gothic heroine in all her glory: she's the object of Cory's affection, his muse, put on a pedestal and lauded for her beauty. She's also searching, becoming increasingly suspicious of Cory and his past, determined to unearth his secrets--balancing her desire to learn with the growing fear that she's trapped in Byrne Hall. What I liked best about Freya, however, was the expert weaving of tone and atmosphere Brooks accomplished through her character. At times, Freya truly feels like a damsel in distress. She could've stepped right out of the 19th century in a lavish gown and delicate sensibilities. She's cut off from the rest of the world. She spends her days walking the grounds looking for artistic inspiration. Languishing over pen-and-paper letters. Her diction is ethereal and elevated to match Cory's own embodiment of a tortured, but rich, artist. When she begins to question the trajectory of their speedy courtship, however, she becomes more of a modern woman. She thinks for herself. She chooses her own clothes. She uses technology and changes her speech patterns. Brooks did a wonderful job emphasizing the duality of Freya's position, and the depth in which she realizes she's become trapped by Cory. There is also the underlying mystery of what happened to Stella, and while that drives Freya, it doesn't feel like the sole focus here. Instead, I would say The Whispering House is a story about love and obsession of all kinds, and the consequences of indulging in our deepest desires for too long. I did find the plot to be somewhat predictable, although well-paced and engrossing. I finished this in a single read, and I think many readers will do the same. Brooks' writing is crisp, layered, and insightful. Overall, The Whispering House is one you won't want to miss. A slow-burn gothic suspense out in March, add this to your TBR now. Big thanks to Tin House and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for honest review consideration.

 

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