Received from NetGalley for review.
The Devil in the Corner is a wonderfully creepy Gothic tale that chronicles eighteen-year-old Maud’s descent into darkness due to the trials she has faced in life and the laudanum she takes to cope with them. We meet Maud when she goes to live with her cousin, Juliana – a demanding and sickly woman who tries to control Maud – and slowly find out about the life she has led and the cruelties she has experienced. It soon becomes apparent that there are things in Maud’s past that she cannot escape, and it soon becomes hard for to distinguish dreams from reality.
The book is set in Victorian England and I felt that the atmosphere was the most impressive part of it – I was transported back in time and loved how the story slowly become darker and more oppressive in its tone. It read like a much older novel, one that could have easily been written during the Victorian era, or shortly thereafter; this did mean that the plot could be a little slow and overly flowery at times, but it generally worked well because of the time and nature of the story. I also loved the focus on Victorian values: worship, fear of the devil, purity, and the darker side that may not have always been documented but was definitely there: abuse of all kinds, drug dependence, limitations placed on women.
Maud was a really interesting character for me – she is young and strange, keeping her past hidden and people at a distance, yet desperately longing to be loved. She arrives to care for Juliana, after suffering from the age of fifteen as a governess (your blood will boil over the things she endured and the people who didn’t believe her), but soon discovers that her cousin will not provide the safe haven she was hoping for. We witness her descent into madness throughout the novel, and can’t help but wonder if it’s the laudanum she takes to sleep, her past, or something more sinister causing her paranoia and delusions, especially with the oppressive presence of the Doom painting being restored in the church. The other characters were interesting enough – Juliana is manipulative and controlling, but John (an artist restoring the Doom) is a fairly bland love interest, and the various servants and villagers mostly fade into the background – but I found that my main focus was always Maud and her madness.
If you enjoy Victorian-era novels of madness I would definitely recommend this; despite its 400 pages length it’s quite a quick read and an interesting way to pass a few hours in a haze of mystery, madness, and murder.
Read: November 14th 2016