Mini book reviews: Wylding Hall by Elizabeth Hand, Summerwater by Sarah Moss and Toddler Hunting by Taeko Kono

Synopsis: When the young members of a British acid-folk band are compelled by their manager to record their unique music, they hole up at Wylding Hall, an ancient country house with dark secrets. There they create the album that will make their reputation, but at a terrifying cost: Julian Blake, the group’s lead singer, disappears within the mansion and is never seen or heard from again.

Now, years later, the surviving musicians, along with their friends and lovers—including a psychic, a photographer, and the band’s manager—meet with a young documentary filmmaker to tell their own versions of what happened that summer. But whose story is true? And what really happened to Julian Blake?

Review: I really enjoyed this one. I liked how it read like an interview, this is one of my favourite tropes in books. I wished there were some more spooky moments and I think keeping it so vague kind of hindered how chilling & scary it could have been but otherwise a really enjoyable gothic-folk-horror story! ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Synopsis: On the longest day of the summer, twelve people sit cooped up with their families in a faded Scottish cabin park. The endless rain leaves them with little to do but watch the other residents.

A woman goes running up the Ben as if fleeing; a retired couple reminisce about neighbours long since moved on; a teenage boy braves the dark waters of the loch in his red kayak. Each person is wrapped in their own cares but increasingly alert to the makeshift community around them. One particular family, a mother and daughter without the right clothes or the right manners, starts to draw the attention of the others. Tensions rise and all watch on, unaware of the tragedy that lies ahead as night finally falls.

Review: I love Sarah Moss’ writing so much. Her books are so short but pack a mighty punch. I love how she uses nature to progress her stories and I love how with so little plot to follow, so much still happens.

I found this one funnier than the other two I’ve read (Ghost Wall & The Fell) whilst still having that same slow growing tension that is her signature style. Really enjoyed this. This lands Moss comfortably on my favourite authors list with three books read rated 4 star or above. ⭐⭐⭐⭐✨

Synopsis: In the famous title story, the protagonist loathes young girls but compulsively buys expensive clothes for little boys so that she can watch them dress and undress. Taeko Kono’s detached gaze at these events is transfixing: What are we hunting for? And why? Kono rarely gives the reader straightforward answers, rather reflecting, subverting and examining their expectations, both of what women are capable of, and of the narrative form itself.

Review: One of those books/collections where I’ve struggled to put my thoughts into words, despite enjoying it.

All of these stories focused on women protagonists. They mainly looked at women reflecting on their relationships and their desire to break free of its constraints, or simply just their dissatisfaction in their relationship.

Lots of these stories also focused on women who needed violence for arousal. What does that mean in the grand scheme of things? Idk. But it was a good collection & very unsettling in parts! ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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