Book recommendation: The House of Small Shadows, by Adam Nevill

Every once in a while, I find myself needing to read something that really shakes me. Something that throws me off balance and leaves me unsure of what I’m supposed to think or do next.

The problem is, it can be hard to anticipate what book–or even genre–will accomplish this at any given time.

But sometimes, I’ll come across a book that I just know will get to me. A book that I purposefully set aside, waiting for the perfect time to read it. A book like The House of Small Shadows, by Adam Nevill.

Catherine hasn’t had the easiest life. She’s been bullied as a child and as an adult, she’s dealt with heartbreak, and she’s dealt with dark times in her past that she’s better off forgetting. And she’s almost managed to, thanks to her faithful boyfriend and new job. But something is about to bring it all back; something that should have stayed buried.

It didn’t take long for this novel to leave me feeling unsettled. At first, it doesn’t seem like the type of book makes you feel jumpy, like there’s someone creeping up behind you. But there’s something that’s just… off. Something’s not right.

That feeling intensifies as the novel keeps going. And, eventually, the jumpy feeling settles in, too. I found myself tensing up as I read certain scenes, both anticipating and dreading what would come next.

And the ending… I don’t even know what to tell you about the ending. I don’t want to give it away, so I’ll leave it at this: it’s very rare that the ending of a novel will leave me feeling that shaken up.

Goodreads summary

Catherine’s last job ended badly. Corporate bullying at a top television production company saw her fired and forced to leave London, but she was determined to get her life back. A new job and now things look much brighter. Especially when a challenging new project presents itself — to catalogue the late M H Mason’s wildly eccentric cache of antique dolls and puppets. Rarest of all, she’ll get to examine his elaborate displays of posed, costumed and preserved animals, depicting scenes from World War I. When Mason’s elderly niece invites her to stay at the Red House itself, where she maintains the collection, Catherine can’t believe her luck. Until his niece exposes her to the dark message behind her uncle’s ‘Art’. Catherine tries to concentrate on the job, but M H Mason’s damaged visions raise dark shadows from her own past. Shadows she’d hoped had finally been erased. Soon the barriers between reality, sanity and memory start to merge. And some truths seem too terrible to be real …

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