The House of Dead Maids
When Tabby comes to Seldom House as the new maid, she quickly realizes that things are not as they should be. Though the rooms are dusty and unused, the staff does nothing to maintain them. Though she locks her bedroom door each night, someone repeatedly enters and rearranges her things. Strange figures appear in the halls, and strange noises haunt her dreams. And, though Tabby was brought to the household as a maid, her sole duty is to watch over the young master: a brazen child who claims he came from Hell itself. As Tabby struggles to adjust to her new home on the Yorkshire Moors, she gradually uncovers the grim secrets of Seldom House – and the true reason she and young Heathcliff were brought there.
This book is an aesthetic pleasure – from its trim dimensions and eerily shimmering cover to the lyricism of the writing within. Dunkle adopts a spare style perfect for the period, fitting each word neatly into place. Her voice is authentic, her descriptions exquisite, her sense of setting highly developed. The relationship between Tabby and her six-year-old charge – sometimes loving, sometimes combative – is beautifully portrayed as well. Despite all these joys, however, the plot is decidedly thin. The true nature of Seldom House is never fully disclosed, nor do we hear more than a few tantalizing details regarding the personal histories of the occupants. The connection to Wuthering Heights is a somewhat murky one, revealed only in the final chapter. Nonetheless, Dunkle’s writing is so effortless that I was more than willing to subscribe to yet another gothic tale of an orphan sent to a mysterious manor house to learn the secrets within. A lyrical and atmospheric ghost story, perfect for light reading on any gloomy night.