Published by Unhinged Books on May 22, 2013
Genres/Lists: #30Authors, Fiction, Historical Fiction
Read synopsis on Goodreads
I received this book for free from NetGalley.
Buy the book: Amazon/Audible (this post includes affiliate links)
As a general rule, I stay away from books that are considered “scary” because I have a very active imagination. It’s been over ten years since I read Helter Skelter and I still have to leave the lights on at night when I think about the creepy crawling. So I’m a bit surprised to find that I enjoyed A White Room so much because it had a similar effect.
The book is essentially two stories about the same protagonist, Emeline. After the untimely death of her father, Emeline gives up her dreams of becoming a nurse and marries a family friend named John Dorr because it’s the practical thing to do. Upon their marriage, they move from the big city of St. Louis to Labellum, Missouri: population tiny. Living in a steal of a house that’s dark, dreary, and downright depressing, Emeline’s isolation begins to take a psychological toll on her. Luckily (or unluckily), the Dorr’s live in a town with only one doctor and there is a huge need for basic healthcare. Although it is illegal, Emeline begins to emerge from isolation and heal herself by tending to those in need.
Fans of The Yellow Wallpaper will love this debut from Stephanie Carroll because it’s about a woman feeling her house is alive and that other people are living in it. I, for one, couldn’t put the book down but was also reading with the covers up to my chin and all of the lights on. It’s not because the book is scary but because I could absolutely understand why Emeline was losing it. I could have sworn that my own walls were watching me and I had horrible flashbacks from the movie “House on Haunted Hill” when the girl looks through the camera lens to see the ghosts staring back at her. Don’t know which scene I’m talking about? It’s the one in the video at the bottom of this post. I really should not have looked it up for you viewing pleasure because now I have the heebie jeebies and am vibrating on the inside with fear.
Aside from that particular image, I could not put the book down. Carroll’s portrayal of a woman going stir-crazy was written in a way that made her thoughts and visions completely rational. I didn’t think Emeline was hysterical, but rather I pitied her for being in a situation that was probably pretty common at the time (1900). Plus, the second half of the book that pertained to nursing had just enough detail for me to think that the author really did her research. While this book is technically considered gothic Victorian fiction, it’s very approachable and not at all what I had expected. I love being pleasantly surprised!