In The House at Midnight, Lucas has just inherited an old house in the country. Patrick, Lucas's uncle, willed it to him before taking his own life. Lucas is devastated at losing his uncle, especially since his mother died not so long ago. He's decides that the house would make an ideal place for him and his friends to hang out and he invites several of them out for the weekend. Included in the group is Joanna, a young woman whom Lucas has known since childhood. When Lucas starts acting strangely, it's Joanna who suspects the house is having a negative effect on him. Things go from bad to worse when the old secrets that are revealed put friendships and lives at risk.
I loved this book. It's wonderfully written with a compelling, psychological edge. The story is suspenseful but remains calm on the surface. You can feel the turbulent undercurrents threatening to pull the characters under. You just know that something bad is going to happen. It's fabulous.
There were quite a few characters in this book, but because of Whitehouse's skill it's easy to keep track of them. They have many unique, interesting and diverse characteristics. I think I felt the most for Joanna (more about that later); she was definitely my favourite. Both Lucas and Danny frightened me a little; Danny more so. They were both so creepy, although Lucas really didn't come off that way in the beginning.
The author also almost presents the house as another character in the book. It's an interesting concept and brings up the question as to how much our environment can affect our relationships and our moods. I also wondered if houses or other inanimate objects can absorb human emotions. Has this house absorbed something in the past that it's now passing onto its current inhabitants or is the house the original culprit? I'm not trying to say that this book has any supernatural overtones. It doesn't, in my opinion. There's just something about that house.
Whitehouse draws many astounding parallels between the old guard at the house and the new generation who now dwell there. I loved how she put it all together. I also loved her many references to isolation (being trapped, living in a bubble). Not only is the house in an isolated location, but the group has also isolated themselves from most everyone else. They have grown up together and they seem to have lost the ability to grow up and move on. I really identified with Joanna, especially when she said a few times about something being "so adult". I know that feeling. Sometimes I can't believe that I'm actually an adult doing these adult things.
I loved the whole book, but my favourite section was the first three paragraphs of Chapter 15 (page 176). I adored them...absolutely adored them. I won't quote them here because they are lengthy and might give a part of the plot away. I think they resonated with me because I'm sure that at several points during my life I felt just as Joanna did those days...disposable and transparent in a ghost-like sense.
A slightly odd and possibly scary coincidence: we are moving to a house in the country this spring. While the house is lovely, it feels like an empty shell right now and definitely needs some life brought into it. I hope this book isn't a warning of some sort. [Cue the "Twilight Zone" theme].
Want to learn more about this amazing book? Synopsis and excerpt. Enjoy!