Don't Tell a Soul / Kirsten Miller / Book Review

Don't Tell a Soul

Blurb

When Bram arrives in the sleepy town of Louth in the middle of the night, she simply wants a fresh start away from Manhattan--a place where she's no longer wanted anyhow. Her estranged uncle James welcomes her into his newly-renovated manor with open arms, glad to have someone else in his life after the recent tragedy that saw the north wing of the manor burnt to the ground and James's beloved wife Dahlia put into the ground forever. Bram is happy to start over but soon discovers this isn't the fresh start she wanted. The manor is creepy, and the townsfolk are unfriendly. And, as it turns out, Aunt Dahlia wasn't the only unfortunate woman to lose her life at Louth Manor. The Dead Girls of Louth have long haunted the manor, all the way back to the time of Grace Louth herself, and the townsfolk claim the manor drives young women insane. Will Bram find herself the manor's next victim, or will she be the one to break the curse?

Pros

  • Gothic Atmosphere: Reading this novel in many ways feels like stepping into  Gothic classics like Jane Eyre or Rebecca. Kirsten Miller does an excellent job of creating the necessary creepy atmosphere, complete with rotting houses that have been restored to a less-than-perfect condition, girls fleeing in the night, and creaks and bumps at all the right moments. Miller provides the classic elements to bring her uncanny world of Louth to life. 
  • Women Believing Women: The women of Louth--Bram newly included--listen to each other and respect each other's stories. They trust their guts, and they give each other the benefit of the doubt whenever they can. They are not rivals for each other. They are support networks against a harsh and callous world that would see them as insane or addicted or simply "trouble." Having a cast of women who believe each other and want to help it as refreshing and necessary in literature as it is in life. 
  • Book Lovers: This book is not only fun for harkening back to old Gothic writing in its style, but Miller actively calls upon the names of those great Gothic writers, too. It turns out that our main character Bram is a fan of du Maurier and the Brontës, as well. Anyone that can appreciate the quality of Miller's writing will appreciate the callback to these  literary ladies as well. It is great to see a new Gothic piece pay homage to its worthy predecessors. 

Cons

  • Old-Fashioned: Though the Gothic nature of the writing and worldbuilding is excellent, it is also rather old-fashioned. A lot of terminology and phrasing harkens back to previous eras. There is a reason Rebecca has been given as a comparable book to this one. I don't mind the old-fashioned prose, but some will have a problem, especially because the narrator is supposedly a contemporary teenager. She feels like an old soul, certainly, and her voice might not resonate with every audience. 
  • Reliance On Unspoken Need: Though this sort of "need" certainly falls into line with Gothic storytelling, I still take issue with it. Bram, from the very beginning, is often led by some unspoken "need" to do things--to stay in a particular room, to walk down a particular path, to ask a particular question... This sort of intuition is common in the genre, so it makes sense. However, it is one of my personal peeves when it comes to Gothic literature, and Miller does not always weave this "need" as carefully into the narrative structure as she should for the incredulity of it to be overlooked. Sometimes, that is, the "need" feels more random than genre-driven. 
  • Nosy Questions: Bram is tactless. She is trying to get answers, of course, and she is tired of having her own story questioned, downplayed, ignored, and erased. It is great to have a character who pushes so hard to have the stories of women heard, especially women who have been victimized and then pushed out of the limelight where no one will see or hear them anymore. However, she feels a little too pushy at times. That is, she often goes overboard, doesn't read social cues, and doesn't apply any finesse when necessary. She kind of blunders through her interrogations, which is unfortunate indeed. Her goal is admirable, but her means of accomplishing it can be difficult to read.  

Rating

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
7/10

Fans of the not-quite-supernatural creepiness of Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre should take a look at this unsettling contemporary work. Those who enjoyed the spooky and haunted house of Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House should settle into Louth Manor alongside this modern day cast of characters. 

Details

Publisher: Delacorte Press
Date: January 26, 2021
Series: N/A
Buy It HERE

Note: I was provided with an ARC by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions here are my own.

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