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The Haunting of Rookward House: 01/15/21
The Haunting of Rookward House by Darcy Coates was originally published in 2017 but a U.S. edition released this year. While much of the book remains recognizably Australian despite the Americanized spelling, there is the odd substitution of a raccoon for what was probably a ring-tailed possum.
The book opens in the late 1960s with a family of five. Thomas, the husband, is worried that Amy has followed them to their new home. He can hear her voice on the baby monitor. At this point it's not clear if she's there and alive, living in the walls like Eugene of Housebound or if she's a vengeful ghost who is personally haunting Thomas. The long answer is actually "both" but it depends when in the story one is.
The majority of the book, though, is set fifty years later. Guy while helping his mother clean her house finds a deed to a house. It's out in a rural area, off the grid, and hasn't been lived in for decades. Thinking the house would be a good distraction from what happened with Savannah, his ex-girlfriend, he sets out to fix it up to sell.
The setting of the house and the way the vines have so thoroughly invaded the outside reminded me of how Hill House is shown in the Netflix adaptation. I'm also reminded of the creeping willows of The Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher (2020).
The abandoned stone house, covered in vines, along a wild river, though, also brings to mind a familiar and very real landscape. It also happens to be one near where the author lives. Back in 1990 I spent two weeks backpacking in winter along the Hawkesbury River. On a canoeing part of the adventure we stopped for lunch at an abandoned orchard with a stone house covered in vines that might as well have been Rookward House.
How events unfold for Guy and his ultimate meeting with the ghost of Rookward is pretty standard but still entertaining. The more he explores and the time he spends, the closer he comes to meeting the ghost. The question, then is, how hurt will he get before he accepts that the place is haunted? The follow up is, will he be strong enough of mind and will to survive the encounter?
Although this novel is Australian, it does have a spot on the road narrative spectrum as an outlier. Guy as the owner of the house is a privileged traveler (00), a fairly standard protagonist for this type of horror. His destination, though, is not uhoria, even though he's interacting with a ghost. Instead, it's a rural destination, as the isolated nature of the building is highlighted above all else (33). The route he takes, though, is the maze (CC) in that the ghost is dangerous and has the ability to change the surroundings to suit her needs.
Many of Darcy Coates novels are available as audiobooks, so I will probably continue reading in that fashion.