Reading Challenge 2015 – ‘A Book By An Author You’ve Never Read Before’

Book Number Two – House of Small Shadows by Adam Nevill.


Catherine Howard is a young woman with a troubled past. Abandoned by her birth mother and adopted, her childhood was a place of taunting and bullying from her peers. Her only friend, Alice, was kidnapped and when Catherine later claims to have seen Alice’s ghost her parent’s send her for some therapy. Even as an adult Catherine struggles and after attacking a colleague at a job in London, she decides to leave for quieter and more peaceful plains in the hope that she can start afresh.

Shrouded in tragedy, Catherine miscarries a baby and is shortly ditched by her boyfriend, Mike. Depressed and drinking quite heavily, Catherine keeps relapsing and having ‘trances’ that have troubled her since childhood, periods of time where she zones out and vividly dreams about events that feel so real she can’t be sure if they are repressed memories, or scenarios created by her muddled mind. When her boss, a sweet elderly man named Leonard, encourages her to take on a job cataloguing the contents of ‘Red House’, the home of master puppet maker M. H. Mason, Catherine hopes it will be the break she needs to take her mind off her recent break up.

But after just one visit to the Red House and meeting Mason’s elderly niece Edith, Catherine is somewhat shook up and feels that despite the house holding many antique items including dolls and taxidermy animals, there’s something odd about the house, the town in which it resides and also the two occupants, Edith and housekeeper Maude.

When Catherine is invited to stay at the house whilst she catalogues the collection, she begins to feel that Edith may be somewhat strange and senile, but decides to play along in the hope that she can get the job done quickly. But pretty soon she begins to both hear and see things in the house that cannot be explained with sheer logic. Images come to her mind and pretty soon it appears she is embroiled in a fate much bigger than anything she can comprehend.

Adam Nevill has an incredibly descriptive use of writing, and really brought the feelings of unease and fear to life for me. However I feel that the latter part of the book was quite tedious, the author could have cut out at least two chapters and still delivered a book with a strange and eerie ending. As it was I felt he went on a little too long for my liking, and I don’t feel that the ending was described clear enough as it was somewhat disorienting, which is perhaps that desired effect he wanted, but I still think less would have been more. A good read with plenty of atmosphere, read this if you’re looking for something to make you shudder with unease.

Star Rating out of 5: 3.5

‘Into her imagination came an impression of Edith Mason with her bleached face, red-rimmed eyes and yellow teeth, crawling down one side of the passageway on all fours, using the skirting board as a guide to find her way back to her room.’


If you’re taking part in this Reading Challenge, I’d love to hear about it. Why not get in touch on Twitter @GinaAlanaLane or in the comment section below.

Until next time, happy reading.