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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Halcyon Books & the £1 book

After a recent trip to the UK, I quickly realized that if I thought my book buying habit was unsuitable in NYC, then my habit would quickly spiral out of control into pure addiction if I had stayed in England and Scotland one second longer. What could really feed my habit would be the £1 sale going on over at Halcyon Books in Greenwich.

Halcyon Books is a secondhand shop after my own heart. Books are piled taking up the majority of the space resulting in patrons having to scooch around each other muttering sincerest apologies.

After entering Halcyon, my [book-loving] friend and I were in pure joy. These were not bargain books that are allocated to the sad boxes in front of shops. I wanted to procure a book that was not necessarily “literature” but something well-written and enjoyable. The search stopped when I came across this frightening PD James cover (left). I immediately returned all other contenders to the shelf and went to the register.

We also had a look at the inner cover flap which proved to have a whole series of equally disturbing covers (right). Of course, I thought to myself: “This is it. Absolutely no more books.” Right.