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1.0 out of 5 starsWaste of time.
Reviewed in the United States on August 9, 2019
I have no idea why this book has such high ratings. Nothing really happens in the first 200 (if not more) pages of the book. It goes on and on and on until the end, which ends super fast (like 30 pages). The ending was incredibly disappointing. I’ve read all of Ruth Ware’s books and this one is by far the worst. Oh, and the reviews say this book is scary, creepy, and suspenseful.... it’s not.
It pains me to leave this review, as I’m such a fan of Ruth Ware. I’ve enjoyed all of her other books — especially her knack for describing settings and atmospheric tension. But in this book, it fell flat for me. So did the characters, the motivations, the light horror aspect, and most of all, the ending. It was just disappointing in every way .... after I pre-ordered at the first opportunity and waited months for it.
Ruth’s writing was as good as always. And despite the book dragging and dragging with mundane details, I still wanted to finish. That said, I read her other books in 1-2 days, this one took over a week. I remember at one point looking down the Kindle page, seeing that I was at 70%, and thinking, what?! Nothing’s happening!
What I didn’t like:
As much as I love (mentioned earlier) how Ruth usually and brilliantly immerses us readers into the settings, it didn’t work this time. The house sounded like a clown house — I absolutely hated the half Victorian, half severely modern aspect — and the “smart” features sounded like the most annoying way to live ever. I kept thinking more would be explored concerning cameras everywhere, etc, but no, it was just how lights wouldn’t come on because of confusing panels or the out-of-town mother telling her kids goodnight. It seemed like being a “smart” house would be a huge factor in the book, but it really wasn’t. I just didn’t have a sense or feel for the house/gardens/etc; it all seemed one-dimensional. Ok, readers, it’s old and maybe haunted and has weird architecture and cameras and a secret attic. It’s creepy, ok? (It wasn’t, at all.)
Every character was annoying, yet not well fleshed out. It almost felt like even Ruth didn’t like them much and was very unsympathetic in writing about them. Much like the house, they seemed one-dimensional. In fact, I kept getting the kids mixed up because they were just cardboard cutouts (except the baby, who we heard too much about and didn’t need to).
Too many outlandish scenarios that pretty much had no purpose (page filler) ... I don’t want to give away spoilers, so I have to be a bit vague. The hunky handyman there to rescue the damsel in distress, the fact of the parents just leaving a stranger with their young children out in the middle of nowhere for a long time and we hardly hear from them again, the cliched rebellious teenager coming home and acting the fool for really no good reason in the story, how negligent and annoyed the nanny always seemed around very scared, unsettled young kids in her care, the silly footsteps in the attic every night, the story of the previous owner which went nowhere, the descriptions of spit-up, the stories of former nannies/pervert husband that went nowhere, the identity thing, etc. Even being vague here, it’s clear to see how many plot lines with potential just fizzled out. The book plodded along slowly until the very end ... then the twists were all crammed in confusingly and abruptly. And one of the biggest “reveals” came off as too little too late and silly to me. Would someone take things that far? Doubtful. Didn’t ring true.
I hated the ending. Hated it. It was unnecessarily cruel and was a terrible twist. It wasn’t shocking, it was just sad.
But the worst part for me, the most disappointing — the entire book being written as a letter (in this case, to an attorney). UGH. I cannot stand letters, journals, etc used as plot devices for an entire story. It’s cliched, it’s lazy, it’s juvenile, it NEVER works well. Who would write out Every. Single. Detail. in a letter like that? Every daily thought and emotion? No one. Especially when time is of the essence, this person is going to pen a novel in letter form? Of course not. And we don’t find out much after the big reveal, so what’s the point of the letter-to-attorney pretense?
Sorry, Ruth. I’m still a fan and happily look forward to reading your future books, but this one didn’t do it for me. I think it could’ve been a truly great book, there were some unique and original ideas (poison garden, for instance). But it just kind of felt all over the place instead of cohesive and determined. It’s certainly not the worst book I’ve ever read, not even close, but I know you have the abilities to do much better!
*Review from paying customer, not given free book. ....................................................................................................
I have read all of Ruth Ware’s books, but this one was a huge disappointment. I hate to give negative reviews because I know the author put a lot of time writing the book, but I have to be honest. It started out slow, but did pick up a bit once she arrived at the house, BUT some of the things that occurred with the kids and the house itself were ridiculous. I do not want to spoil anything for those that are considering reading it, but it’s a retelling night of The Turning of the Screw, a Henry James Classic physiological thriller, but with a modern twist. Very disappointing.
I've read all of Ware's books - liked some better than others. While I really love her writing in this book and I like the story well enough I wasn't crazy about the plot device of her writing a letter to an attorney. The whole book was the letter! Would the attorney really have read it all? Plus like someone else said - not much happens until the very end of the book. I was also bothered ever since I heard about this book coming out about the obvious title so similar to Turn of the Screw. Not to mention the other similarities - a governess/nanny, ghosts, children, etc. Ruth Ware is too talented to reduce herself to copying Henry James. I enjoyed it for sure - read it in about eight hours - couldn't put it down - but I was a bit disappointed in it after much build up and waiting for it. My fave of hers is still The Death of Mrs. Westaway.
I love Ruth ware's books and have read them all. I will continue to read them all.She is a gifted and talented writer. I thoroughly enjoyed this book until the very end. I had no idea what finally happened. It was just left up in the air. I do not like to give away the story or plot but the last 10-15 pages thoroughly confused me. If any other reader could tell me what they thought happened, I would appreciate it
5.0 out of 5 starsA spooky, gothic atmosphere and modern fears combine to make an irresistible story.
Reviewed in the United States on August 8, 2019
A young daycare worker looking to change jobs sees an advertisement for a position as a live-in nanny to four children in a country house in the remote Scottish Highlands. Salary, £50,000 per year. A dream job. Although, in the past year four nannies have quit suddenly, one on her first day and another leaving her belongings in her haste to get out. Also the locals say the house is haunted. And a little girl was killed there a few decades ago. But other than that, a dream job.
As in all good gothic novels the young woman of course takes the job. The house turns out to be a cozy, welcoming Victorian country house with a beautiful view. The back of the house is a modern glass addition with a state of the art kitchen. The house is also a super wired up smart house, with an app that controls everything from door locks to lights, music and air vents. And there are lots of cameras.
Ruth Ware masterfully sets up the story, then powers it forward with suspicion, clues, misdirection, twists, and red herrings. This created such suspense for me I had to finish it in one day -- I just couldn't wait for the answers! She has written this novel in the form of a letter the protagonist is writing. I thought it would be off-putting but it wasn't -- once I accepted that this was the longest letter ever I became so enmeshed in the story it wasn't a distraction. I would definitely recommend this book.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 21, 2019
I would rather not have bought this book. I am not going to finish it. I know it is based on The Turn of the Screw and I have no issue with that. But I have read too many books set in some kind of idealistic Scotland of the imagination with people who say "och2 and "wee" without managing to sound local at all. The entitled rich parent irritate me profoundly and I have no interest in the nanny or the brattish children. I read crime stores (or psychological thrillers) for the atmosphere of a real place. Such as the Northumberland of Ann cleeves or the Texas of Attica Locke. Plus believable and engaging characters.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 9, 2019
I read this book in just under twenty-four hours, work and weekend permitting, in a couple of chunks because I found it extremely difficult to put down. From the first page to the earth-shattering climactic this novel had me enthralled. The writing just flows so well you don;t even realise you;re reading, you just immediately feel as if you're there, being told a creepily plausible story about a family living in a Scottish mansion. I had no idea what was going on, who was responsible, or what would happen next. There are three plot-twists - or revelations - I did not expect and the final one completely took me by surprise. A huge five stars, and I'll be looking at Ruth's back catalogue and keeping an eye out for her next release. This is the first book of Ware's I've read and I look forward to reading many more.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 3, 2019
When Rowan applies for a nanny position with the wealthy Elincourt family, the job seems too good to be true. Admittedly she will be in an isolated, yet magnificent house, caring for three small children and occasionally a teenager while the parents work, but the salary is beyond her wildest dreams. Although a Victorian house on the outside, inside it is fitted with state of the art technology. An app called happy controls everything, from ordering food when the fridge runs low, to turning on the lights, to drawing the curtains. She is not put off by the fact 4 nannies have left the job within the past year, apparently due to feeling spooked and listening to ghostly tales which surround the property. Not long after she moves in, though, Rowan begins to wonder if some of the tales were true. A modern day ghost story with a gothic background. A fantastic ending which is impossible to see coming. The only down side is it is very heavy on the description of the house and furnishing when it is not needed and you simply want the story to move on.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 8, 2020
This is my first acquaintance with the novels of Ruth Ware. It won’t be the last. This seems to me at the very top of that genre, the psychological thriller. I am very tempted to award it 5, but there are problems. The structure of the story rests on an implausible situation – an extended(!) letter to the lawyer Wrexham, written from the current residence of the central character, Rowan – a cell in a women’s prison. Ruth Ware’s attempt to merge a plea for help with a story that holds the reader’s attention cannot really work. Apart from other considerations, the order in which information is conveyed to us is at odds with any semblance of realism as far as the letter is concerned. Even if the letter is more a therapeutic exercise it is still unconvincing.
However, if we can make that leap of suspending disbelief over this issue, then we are soon thrust into the midst of a totally compulsive story. What separates the author from her contemporaries and rivals is the quality of the writing and above all the characterisation of the children, the house keeper Jean McKenzie, Jack and the parents, largely present via the advanced communication system built into their home.
The home is crucial. Isolated in the Highlands of Scotland it is an extraordinary fusion of the old and the new. Past and present are key themes in this subtle, complex narrative. The setting is powerfully atmospheric. Few novels are so genuinely spine-chilling without any lashings of gratuitous violence. Rowan is not only the centre of the mystery but also a fully credible human being. If what marks out a superior mystery story is that we are held as much by each page as by a desire to discover an explanation of events, then this has the makings of a classic of its kind.
Ruth Ware builds up a powerful momentum culminating in an original climax. Whether this climax lives up to the reader’s expectations will, I suppose, vary from one person to another. She has certainly set herself a major challenge. By the end our expectations are at fever pitch.
For me this was an immensely satisfying read. I thoroughly recommend the novel as well above other more celebrated ventures in this field.
5.0 out of 5 starsAnother incredible book from Ruth Ware, a genuine thriller writer.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 14, 2019
Another incredible book from Ruth Ware. She really is an expert in truly engaging the reader, a genuine thriller writer. This book reminded me of Turn of the Screw with its sense of foreboding and unease. I couldn't put this book down. I loved the cleverly woven plot, the first person narrative and the way vital information was fed through out and culminated in a clever and thought-provoking ending.