Crimson Peak by Nancy Holder based on Guillermo Del Toro’s movie

3.75 out of 5 gothic stars… I wanna give it 4 for prose

My favorite genre of all time, the one I would immerse myself in 24/7 if it weren’t for all the other goddamned books I want to read, is gothic romance. I am obsessed with old houses and manors and halls. I love Victorian homes even more. I love ghostie, spooky stories. When I first heard about Crimson Peak, a gothic romance movie to be made by Guillermo Del Toro, Benedict Cumberbatch was attached. I was very excited… then Benedict had to with draw (probably because he is starring in every single other thing) and Tom Hiddleston stepped in.

I had to grab a banister for dramatic effect.

Well, the movie came out today, but I don’t really go to movies. I will wait for the DVD, but in the meantime, I wanted the book. So I got it!

Picture on the inside – Allerdale Hall

Crimson Peak is the story of Edith Cushing, an American heiress who dreams of being a novelist. In swoops the handsome, aristocratic, dreamer Sir Thomas Sharpe, Baronet and his elegant sister. As is the way of things, Thomas and Edith fall in love. And of course, it all goes horribly wrong.

There are so many secrets in this… but sadly, the novel lets you in on them too soon. I wish the mystery, the ghosts in the house and what was going on was dragged out longer. But the fact the Sharpe’s aren’t on the up and up is obvious, and you see things from their point of view that tell you all isn’t right in Denmark. What the novel does well is the portrayal of the characters, and the prose.

The Sharpe children grew up in their moldering mansion, Allerdale Hall, victims of their parent’s cruel abuse. Their father was a gambler, whoremonger (to use the old word) and profligate. When he wasn’t running across Europe squandering the family fortune, he was home beating his wife and children. Most of it centered on Lucille, the sister, the older by two years. She does everything she can to shield Thomas from the abuse, whether it’s their father’s riding crop or their mother’s cudgel. Thomas is an absolute sweetheart, but he’s weak, and devoted to Lucille. She is very good at pointing out how she protects him all the time and gets him to swear his loyalty to her. Their parent’s both die… tragically. The mother more so than the father…but I’ll leave you to discover that. The siblings are left with the family name and mansion, both in the mud, literally and figuratively. They have very little money left – and the clay deposits that used to fund their business have become more difficult to get at. They have come to America to find funding for a machine that will get Sharpe and Sons digging the clay and baking the bricks again. They didn’t get investors, but Thomas got Edith. And her fortune.

Edith seems a perfect match for dreamy Thomas. He is an inventor, of little toys for Lucille when he was a boy, and of industry as a man. Edith wants to write. She lost her mother when she was very young, and has a terrifying visitation with her ghost. She has fought with herself over it as she grew up. Was it only grief? A dream, like her father insisted? A warning? When she writes, she does as she believes other writers have done… her ghosts are metaphors. When she meets Thomas Sharpe, she thinks she will rewrite her hero to closer resemble him. That’s what a writer would do. And truthfully, with her dreamy idealism and his ancient home, tragic story and hopes for the future, Edith didn’t have have a chance.

It’s not long after their marriage that things seem strange. First, Thomas doesn’t require her to perform her “wifely duties” something that she thinks is all about her mourning for her father. Then there are the shades. The woman in the elevator, that isn’t in the elevator. The elevator that takes her down to the mines, when she only wanted to go to the ground floor. The trunks she finds with her initials… her new initials. E. S. Edith Sharpe. Only, it isn’t her trunk. There are other clothes and things there as well. And then she sees a true, honest to God ghost that tells her to Get. Out. This thing was no metaphor, but a dripping, gory horror. Of course she freaks out and goes off, seeking her husband and answers! Thomas’s response to this is… Let’s go to the post office!  And thus, the post office and chill meme was born.

from post office and chill on tumblr
from post office and chill on tumblr

The prose was either delicious and gorgeous or too drawn out or too simple and obvious. There is a lot of really dark, sickness in the house and that is beautifully portrayed. It’s atmospheric and lush, there is so much imagery, but not too much. I mean, have you seen the pictures of the house? Most of the descriptions were saved for moments of terror and clothing, which I really enjoyed, but the house wasn’t described too much beyond her initial impression. The house itself is a character, watching all the time. It’s so vast, it swallows you up, the chimneys seem to breathe, and all the time, the red clay is oozing from between the tiles like blood.

I enjoyed the book and loved the characters, but I have some complaints. Like I said I’d like for more things to be discovered as surprises than handed to me. The book itself, for a mass market paperback is beautiful….if cheaply made. I mean the cover is hardly thicker than the pages inside (and I have a lot of experience with mm paperbacks – I’m glad I’ve learned to take care of my books a little better or this would be toast). The ending was way too drawn out – and in an attempt to dial up the drama, characters have injuries that should be so serious they can’t run around trying to kill each other for the next few hours, but somehow, they manage.

I can’t wait to see the movie, and would gladly have paid for a hardback… but not the $50 the limited edition is going for. Oh well. I see this being a yearly read at this time of year.

Happy Reading everyone!

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