Sunday, June 19, 2016
The Broken Hours by Jacqueline Baker
Synopsis From Dust Jacket:
In the cold spring of 1936, Arthor Crandle, down on his luck and desperate for work, accepts a position in Providence, Rhode Island, as a live-in secretary/assistant for an unnamed shut-it.
He arrives at the gloomy colonial-style house to discover that his strange employer is an author of disturbing, bizarre fiction. Health issues have confined him to his bedroom, where he is never to be disturbed. But the writer, who Crandle knows only as "Ech-Pi," refuses to meet him, communicating only by letters left on a table outside his room. Soon the home reveals other unnerving peculiarities. There is an ominous presence Crandle feels on the main stairwell. Light shines out underneath the door of the writer's room but is invisible from the street. It becomes increasingly clear there is something not fight about the house or its occupant.
Haunting visions of a young girl in a white nightgown wandering the walled-in garden behind the house motivate Crandle to investigate the circumstance of his employer's dark family history. Meanwhile the unsettling aura of the house pulls him into a world increasingly cut off from reality, into black depths, where an unspeakable secret lies waiting.
I haven't read a lot of H.P. Lovecraft's writing, nor do I really know much about his personal life, so when I stumbled upon this book in the store, and was captivated by the cover, I knew I had to give it a shot. Once I got it home, it stayed on my bedside table for a few days, but once I picked it up, I was lost in a world of Gothic madness and fear.
If you have seen the movies Thr3e or Dream House, you will quickly catch on to what's going on, and you will definitely get a good understanding for the title of this book. If you haven't seen those movies, I'm not going to spoil the book, or the movies for that matter, by explaining what they all have in common. Just know this, even though I was able to figure out the twist of this book about half way through, it didn't take away from my enjoyment of it, nor did it keep me from buying into the story of Arthor Crandle and his employer. The clues are there for you to pick up on. As long as you are paying attention to the side characters, and how they interact with Arthor as he encounters them, you won't stray too far into the woods.
This is one of those books where the atmosphere is everything. This is a book that you feel enveloped in from the moment you first crack it open. It's heavy and oppressive. You feel like you are drowning underneath a layer of unease and tension. From the moment Arthor appears on the page, you know he is not going to have a an easy time of it, and that he is hiding from his life The tension and unease all stem from him, like a miasmatic fog wafting over a fetid swamp, you know he is the source of it all.
Of course, like any good Gothic story, the house plays a big role in the tone of the book. It's falling apart, full of memories and ghosts, and presents the perfect backdrop for Arthor and his secrets. It's a confusing labyrinth of secretes and misdirection, all built around the goal of playing games with Arthor's, and the reader's, mind. It's hard to put a finger on what's real, and what's not. But, as long as you follow the trail of bread crumbs the author leaves behind, I'm sure you will be able to figure it out for yourself. If you can't, I'm sure Arthor will help you feel at home.