The House at Midnight was the first novel from author Lucie Whitehouse, whose most recent novel, Before We Met, compelled me to delve into her other works.
Told from the perspective of Joanna, The House at Midnight follows the lives of seven friends after one of them, Lucas, inherits a stately English manor and a huge fortune from his recently deceased uncle, Patrick. Though the house appears as a wonderful addition to their friendship, with best friends Lucas and Joanna revealing their feelings for one another, things quickly turn sour.
When Lucas and his erratic friend Danny decide to move into the manor permanently, isolated from London and without any work, things go from strange to dangerous. Is it the house that they’re living in or is it their friendships? What secrets lurk in Lucas’s family’s past and were they caused by this mysterious manor?
If the plot of The House at Midnight rings a bell, you’d be right – many aspects of the novel – from references to Ancient Greek figures, a seemingly impenetrable friendship group and a cataclysmic event – all seem eerily similar to Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. Yet while Tartt’s novel has gone down as an epic masterpiece, unfortunately Lucie Whitehouse’s attempts were not so successful.
Granted, The Secret History did have more than double the number of pages and thus everything was explained, unfortunately in this case there were numerous aspects of The House at Midnight that neither added up, nor really held any real importance.
More so than any other type of book, a novel with a thriller plot has to contain solely information that is relevant to the conclusion, yet frequently Whitehouse would reference something in The House at Midnight only for it to end nowhere. Why was Joanna’s asthma described in such detail at the beginning of the novel, only for it to have no impact on the storyline in almost any way? Was the house haunted or was it simply a friendship group that had become spoiled over time? And were the references to Greek mythology actually relevant to the plot, or simply an example of the upper-class standings of the characters?
The House at Midnight was an enjoyable read, and I will admit that there were twists that I wasn’t expecting. In saying that, particularly in comparison to her latest book, Before We Met, it is also abundantly clear that The House of Midnight was Whitehouse’s first novel. At times the plot was rusty, the characters unlikeable and the loose ends conveniently never mentioned again. Unfortunately of course for Whitehouse the real problem is the comparison it draws with The Secret History – a highly acclaimed novel by a Pulitzer prize-winning novelist, and really, not a fair comparison for any first time novelist.
If you’re a fan of intrigue and romance in a novel than I think you will enjoy The House at Midnight. However, I would recommend reading it with a grain of salt, and if you’ve read The Secret History, then maybe just reach for one of Lucie Whitehouse’s other novels instead.
Have you read The House at Midnight or The Secret History? Are you a fan of Lucie Whitehouse? Let me know!