I don't often read supernatural stories but do enjoy a good ghost tale. I was browsing in the library, when I came across This House is Haunted by John Boyne. I knew him as the author of The boy in striped pyjamas, but haven't read any other novel by him. The cover and the teaser looked promising, and I took it out. The novel is set in 1867.
Eliza Caine, a plain looking young woman from London is grieving the sudden death of her beloved father and takes up a position of a governess in a remote manor house in Norfolk, called Gaudlin Hall.
She is nearly killed at the train station, pushed by the invisible hands in the path of the train, being rescued by the vigilant doctor.
When Eliza arrives on a dark and chilling evening to the house, she is greeted by two children. The absence of parents or any other responsible adults is not explained by the children, Isabella and Eustace. That same night, as she goes to bed, the invisible pair of hands grabs her by the ankles and terrifies her. This malign presence in the house seems to follow every step she takes. But the children seem to be unperturbed by it.
I won't spoil the plot and tell you how it ends. I will only say that this is a true page turner and a gripping story. There are inevitable comparisons with The Turn of the Screw and even Jane Eyre, there are some stereotypes when it comes to the haunted desolate mansion's paraphernalia, but overall it is an entertaining creepy story with some unexpected twists.
I loved all the literary references to the 19c writers. Even Mr Dickens makes an appearance in the novel. The style of writing is intelligent and perceptive.
Eliza is an endearing character, with an insightful mind. If you enjoy old-fashioned Gothic stories, this is a well written tale.
Mid-way through the novel, Eliza is taking tea with a new found friend Mrs Toxley, who brings a small gift with her.
"I was touched by such an unexpected kindness and opened it. Immediately an explosion of powerful odours emerged from the box. Mrs Toxley had brought pear cakes infused with cinnamon, and I felt a weakness overtake me." The smell of cinnamon reminded Eliza of her father's favourite tobacco, flavoured with cinnamon.
I was planning to cook pear cakes with cinnamon, but couldn't find the small sized tart cake tins anywhere in the kitchen, so instead I baked one big pear, almond and cinnamon tart.
Pear, almond and cinnamon tart
1 pack of Jus-Rol shortcrust pastry
2 medium eggs
125g caster sugar
100g ground almonds
1tsp ground cinnamon
1tsp vanilla essence
Oil the round pie baking dish with the cake release spray or just oil a bit. Roll out the pastry and cut the corners to make it fit the round dish.
Prepare the filling. Grate one pear on coarse, mix with the ground almonds, cinnamon, vanilla, caster sugar and eggs.
Slice two more pears (skin on) thinly.
Pour the filling into the pastry case (still uncooked). Then place the pear slices around the edges, leaving the middle open.
Place the dish in the oven preheated to 180C and cook for 25+ minutes until the pastry is golden brown.
This is a lovely tart, great with cream or ice cream if you eat it hot. It is not bad cold either.
You can make this cake with apples, in fact I have a recipe for Belgian Apple tart which I adapted for pears.
This week I've been reading One Summer in Venice by Nicky Pellegrino, and it is brimming with food references and delightful meals. I know what I am going to cook for the next #ReadCookEat challenge.