- File Size: 7425 KB
- Print Length: 142 pages
- Publisher: Open Road Media Sci-Fi & Fantasy (July 14, 2015)
- Publication Date: July 14, 2015
- Sold by: Amazon.com Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00UA1KO82
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #218,147 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
|Digital List Price:||$9.99|
|Print List Price:||$24.00|
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Wylding Hall Kindle Edition
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|Length: 142 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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“For fans of ’70s Folk-Rock . . . Fairport [Convention] in a parallel gothic horror universe, with a touch of Nick Drake thrown in. Skillfully written and well-researched novella from Elizabeth Hand.” —Richard Thompson, guitarist and songwriter
“[Wylding Hall] is not a novel of thrills and puzzles, but a lengthy spell itself. . . . Hand is an expert at building mood and atmosphere in ways that you don’t realize until you feel it around you.” —SF Signal
“[A] luminous evocation of a period and place . . . The novella gains a strange power apart from its rather restrained supernatural manifestations, a power driven by the sense of lost dreams that has always driven Hand’s best fiction.” —Locus
“Somewhere up in rock ’n’ roll heaven, Janis Joplin, Brian Jones, Nick Drake and Sandy Denny are all tossing back their drinks, passing a spliff, and recounting how much they enjoyed reading Elizabeth Hand’s shimmering new supernatural novel, Wylding Hall. . . . By turns melancholic and joyous, dark and incandescent, this always-surprising tale is full of heart, music and wonder.” —Paul Di Filippo, author of The Steampunk Trilogy
“Wylding Hall is a true surreal phantasmagoria, with music and all the accoutrements of the world of rock-and-roll set off by a wonderful admixture of the gothic supernatural. Treat it like the most exciting getaway in a truly enchanting setting.” —Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, author of Hôtel Transylvania
About the Author
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Written in documentary form, Wylding Hall is about members of the band Windhollow Faire (the name made me chuckle) recounting their chilling experiences while writing/rehearsing/recording their second —and last—album back in the early '70's. Hand deftly mixes the factual with her fictional characters to give a great sense of the time the bands members describe. She sprinkles her character's descriptions with musicians like Sandy Dennis, Van Morrison, or Lou Reed in an easy, unforced manner. What's also impressive is how each first person voice has such a clear sense of self. Each of the first person points of view is unique—and there's nine of them, with a few supporting cast members adding their voices to the bands' and manager. By the book's end, you feel like you have sat personally listening to singer Lesley, bassist Ashton, drummer Jon, rhythm guitarist Will, and protective manager Tom spin their memories.
They collectively paint a brilliant portrait of lead guitarist/singer Julian, or how at least they remember him. Julian isn't around to tell his tale, but he is the focal point of their tale.
That's another intriguing aspect of this novella—everyone is speaking from memory, after a huge gap of years. How much has time reshaped certain memories?
There's a wealth of rich detail in this book, both in description and emotions. A few of the—I'll call them the supernatural scenes—are damned scary in a unearthly way. I don't think this is a ghost story—Wylding Hall is more of an account of an ancient being trying to connect with someone it/she feels a kinship with, namely fey Julian. That is my take from the reading. The girl the band speaks of is far more than she seems—and so is Julian.
At Wylding Hall, nature turns unnatural, time and distance turn deceptive, and birds, especially wrens, become malevolent creatures traversing time. In the small village, the locals know enough not to tell. Those in touch with what's beyond reality disappear.
The book's ending is like having a door slammed in your face. You want more, but that's the story's end. That's all Hand plans to give the reader. There's plenty left up to the reader to speculate about in their own private fantasies.
Wylding Hall is a gem of a novella. I will return to this novella more than once. Hand continues to weave her magic.
Definitely deserving of its' Shirley Jackson Award win in 2015, I feel sorry for anyone who isn't equally chilled and wondrous to glimpse the dark glamour at the heart of this story. And how else could it have ended? Julian had gone into the realm of Fae, and if Jonno truly did catch a glimpse of him 35 years later looking no different than the night he last saw him then we know that Julian lost the world but gained his desired arcane knowledge.
That said, the story itself is haunting, and the girl, who is the mystery figure here, was truly chilling, and I couldn't stop thinking about her afterwards. The way the writer brings in various elements of folk story and music was lovely: I am still thinking about the Wren and the hunting of the wrens (a tradition I knew a bit about, but will look into more after reading this novel), and how that connected with the overall story. I haven't stopped thinking about those elements of the novella since I read it, a sign of an intriguing and haunting story.
So I have mixed feelings about this book, but I am glad I read it. I might try more of this author's work--I know she is quite well respected, but I haven't been able to quite connect with her work previously. I'm sure this is a must-read for fans of her work, and it may be that it simply isn't the best intro. to her work for people like me, who have read nothing else of hers. A haunting story, worth taking a chance on if you can get through the constant shifting of povs. (I do think this novella might have worked better as a short story with less pov shifting).
And the premise of this book reminded me very much of a novel I love by Phil Rickman, December, which covers much of the same ground: a group of musicians going to a haunted place to record music. For those who are interested in the era, in the connection between music and folktales, I'd recommend that novel, too. I found the characters much better developed in that (longer) novel.
Top international reviews
Windhollow Faire, a folk rock band, are camped out in Wylding Hall to create a new album. The book plays out like a documentary as we hear various band members and associates describe the gradually threatening chain of events that led to the albums creation and associated tragedy.
The documentary style could sound like it might be rather dull but in fact it's a clever way of telling the story through gradual revelations and the narrators differing viewpoints add to the intrigue. Above all though this book really captures the atmosphere of strangeness and otherness that existed for the band and it all sounds perfectly plausible and real.
Then there's the Gothic mystery at the heart of this novel, no spoilers to say it's both prefigured early by the oral history/documentary format, and yet never quite fully explained, which brings a MR Jamesian touch that is moodily effective.
Hand doesn't overplay it, and her cast of characters are interesting and defined enough to carry the format of subsections by the different individuals often contradicting each other or forgetting details.
Elizabeth Hand certainly knows about and obviously loves folk; the references are great and that includes those to rock journalism and the music industry.
The story itself is okay, though not exactly exciting. What simply does not work - for me, mind you - is the interview style the author uses to tell the story.
I wonder how much better it would have been if told in a traditional style ...
The folk music hook works, but is an underused device. Obviously the author knows the world of folk music, dropping a few names from time to time, but it isn't a tale of folk folk, it's meant to be "terrifying", or so I read before buying the book.
As terrifying stories go, it's anodyne and the ending is bizarre (but not in a good way) and somewhat elongated. This is the second book I've read in a few weeks where the author seems to just run out of ideas, having earlier failed to develop all kinds of potentially interesting plotlines, abandoning them like unwanted kittens. Instead we get a wrap-up which, in true Douglas Adams style, is then followed by a second, equally dissatisfying wrap-up.
If I was the author I'd have included diary entries from Julian Blake - the character not able to speak for himself. Something, anything, to provide some kind of information as to why he did what he did and when he did it. Fewer potential plotlines might have meant that more could have been made of the more interesting ideas briefly explored in the narrative.
Set in a world I almost recognise, this tale lacks bite and fright (no I'm not asking for vampires) and, although a good attempt, as you may have gathered, this book does not float my boat.