This Shirley Jackson Award–winning novel is “a true surreal phantasmagoria . . . [a] gothic supernatural” horror story set in the decadent world of British rock (Chelsea Quinn Yarbro).
When the young members of a British acid-folk band are compelled by their manager to record their unique music, they hole up at Wylding Hall, an ancient country house with dark secrets. There they create the album that will make their reputation, but at a terrifying cost: Julian Blake, the group’s lead singer, disappears within the mansion and is never seen or heard from again.
Now, years later, the surviving musicians, along with their friends and lovers—including a psychic, a photographer, and the band’s manager—meet with a young documentary filmmaker to tell their own versions of what happened that summer. But whose story is true? And what really happened to Julian Blake?
Hand (Available Dark), restricted by her choice of structure, struggles to turn this novella into something more than a comfortably familiar haunted house story. The work is framed as a set of interviews for a documentary film about the band Windhollow Faire. The participants band members, their manager, a psychic, and a journalist, all with disappointingly undifferentiated voices recount a 1970s summer spent at the titular crumbling manor in rural England, writing music and making a groundbreaking neofolk album. Absent from the interviews is the ethereally voiced, astonishingly beautiful lead guitarist, Julian Blake, whose mysterious disappearance or death is regularly hinted at; but rather than offering differing versions of events, which would have added a layer of intrigue, the interviews remain unswervingly consistent, describing a ghostly young women lured into the open by Julian's performance of a haunting folk song. Hand's formidable language rarely emerges in the expository interviews, so the icy sensations, secret passageways, and taciturn locals provide Gothic trappings without even momentary uneasiness. Intermittently rewarding images of the late 1960s and early '70s music scene take a backseat to repetitive renderings of a well-worn story.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Structure works against story
For a mildly supernatural story, the oral history conceit is interesting. It provides multiple unreliable narrators so the reader can decide if they want to pretend ghosts do or don’t exist.
The narrations are evocative, though there could be more distinction between. The front half of the book is a cozy sort-of-Bildungsroman. However, the documentary structure shanks the big twist of its moment. One person sees the real craziness and it gets a little buried, so we can’t marinade in the weirdness.
Since the conceit is that we’re talking about an album and not a spooky ghost story, there’s a denouement that takes up almost a fifth of the total book’s length. I kept thinking the ante was going to be raised, but everyone called and that was that.
Born to be "Wyld". Liz32906
Very well written.Mystic Mix of Dark and Light.Voices Chanting in the Night.Fear Comes With This Tale.A Bit of Heaven locked in Hell!