Wylding Hall by Elizabeth Hand

Wylding Hall

For the past few weeks, I have been staying on the West Coast of Ireland. It is rural, full peculiar cows that like to stare you in the eye and follow you around as you trek across ancient fields to check out Medieval ruined abbeys. It is green and [uncharacteristically] sunny, but some days, still filled with rolling fog atop the mountains. It has certainly put me in the mood for spooks. (If you care to see some photos, stick around till the end for some of my snaps.)

Although Wylding Hall is not set in Ireland, but the English countryside, it certainly was quite a read!

In 1972, a British acid-folk band is carted off by their manager to a remote ancient house to record their next album. The band already suffered one strange occurrence–the ambiguous death of the lead singer’s girlfriend (and former band mate). Of course, when they are at Wylding Hall, there are strange happenings, creepy birds, and lurking presences. Finally, the lead singer mysteriously disappears and is presumed dead after he never reappeared.

The novella is told through interconnected first person interviews: it is present day and a documentary filmmaker is interviewing the band and others involved about the time surrounding the stay at Wylding Hall and the lead singer’s disappearance.

This structure delights my fondness for books written in epistles. Yes, interviews aren’t letters, but in the novella they do give that reading experience. Also, everyone’s experience at Wylding Hall was completely different and when they are commenting on similar moments, there are little tweaks in the perception. Everyone is inherently an unreliable narrator and the question of who to believe is always simmering.

Elizabeth Hand is a writer I’ve been meaning to dip into forever, and I totally dug this book. I read it in a few sittings, quickly flipping pages, as the Gothic atmosphere tinged the entire narrative. Wylding Hall also won a 2015 Shirley Jackson Award.

With the landscape so haunted, I am in search of more spooky tales. I am off to Dublin soon after spending weeks in the country, and I’m curious what hauntings city-life will bring.

Has anyone else read Elizabeth Hand? She is quite prolific. Wylding Hall is easily affordable at $3.82 on Amazon.

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4 comments

    1. Thanks so much! That photo is still one of my favorites out of 100 shots. This was a fun, atmospheric read, so I hope that her other novels provide similar experiences.

  1. I dug this book so much! Elizabeth Hand and I have a complicated relationship wherein I don’t tend to like over half of her books, but Wylding Hall is my absolute favorite. It’s so wonderfully creepy. All those birds!

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