The House of Dead Maids by Clare B. Dunkle
Posted by: Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan
Cindy: My first experience with Wuthering Heights comes from a Classics Illustrated version of the title from my childhood. Still, Heathcliff haunts me and who wouldn’t be intrigued by the story behind this brooding, evil character living on the English moors. The House of Dead Maids (Henry Holt, 2010) is Clare Dunkle’s creepy prequel-of-sorts to Emily Bronte’s classic. Readers don’t need to be familiar with Heathcliff to enjoy this dark tale of orphan Tabby who comes to be the nursemaid for the young master of Seldom House. She begins to see the ghosts of the dead maids who came before her and is baffled by the lack of a church in the small village. The events get stranger and the book gets harder to put down, especially once the reader learns that Tabby and her charge have been marked by the villagers as the next sacrifice.
Whether or not this book leads teens to read Wuthering Heights remains to be seen (Bella’s adoration of the classic in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series might have already moved a few readers in that direction) but the slim story with a chilling cover is a perfect read-alike for fans of Phyllis Reynold Naylor’s Jade Green. For teens who do get into the Wuthering Heights connection, Dunkle has a wealth of supporting material on her website. Dunkle grew up surrounded by Bronte’s work, her mother wrote her master’s thesis about Heathcliff, and it remains one of her favorite classics. She hopes teens will use this book as a small appetizer to whet their appetites to move on to the main course. So, are you a Wuthering Heights fan? We want to know. I probably should give the book another shot someday, but in the meantime, I’m definitely a Clare Dunkle fan! If you haven’t read her Hollow Kingdom trilogy….do so ASAP.
Lynn: I was an English major and am a Gothic lit fan so I do like Wuthering Heights but it has been a looong time since I read it. I set out reading this book somewhat nervously wondering if I would remember enough of the original story to keep up! I was quickly swept into the absolute creepiness of the this book and just as quickly stopped worrying about books and university classes gone by. The atmosphere of horror and foreboding are done extremely well here and teens won’t have to know anything about Heathcliff to find this book haunting their sleep. There is a scene in which the villagers are getting ready to bury the children alive that almost made me put the book down except that I believed in Tabby’s resourcefulness. YIKES!
I loved how Dunkle brought all the story threads together at the end and there is a definite ah ha moment that I predict will send a lot of teens to the library to try Wuthering Heights for themselves. This book will publish in September so make sure it doesn’t get missed!