I enjoy a good story, never more than at this time of year, when Hallowe’en has come and gone and the nights are drawing in and Christmas is on its way. I particularly enjoy a good Susan Hill ghost story – The Woman in Black has rightly become a classic, and earlier this year I had a thoroughly good time with The Small Hand as I explained here. So when her new story, Dolly, was released it was no-brainer that I would buy it and devour it in one sitting, as I did.
It’s a short tale, narrated to us by Edward Caley about his lonely orphaned childhood and especially one summer, the first that he spent with his Aunt Kestrel in her forbidding house in the Fens. They are joined by his extraordinarily spoiled cousin Leonora, a wilful child with serious anger management issues, effectively abandoned by her mother and uncontrollable. During her stay she becomes fixated on being given a doll for her birthday, and when she doesn’t get exactly what she wants she becomes enraged and lashes out, an action which has appalling repercussions for them both down the years.
This is nicely creepy in many ways and I enjoyed the experience of reading it at the time, but didn’t get quite the sense of foreboding or the air of melancholy that you get from a really good ghost story. I couldn’t quite get it to make sense for me in terms of actions and consequences. So a bit unsatisfying compared to her other work in the genre but still better than most of the ghost stories out there.