Stars out of 5: 3.5
For two of our members this was re-read so they didn’t enjoy as much as they did the first time round. That said we all agreed there were parts so well written you had to stop and just think about them, and other parts that were unnecessary in being over-descriptive and a bit of a waffle.
Discussing the characters:
The Boy: Danny was written as a far more mature character than a real 5 year old would be, since all of us are mothers, that part stood out for all the wrong reasons. Even though his parents acknowledged his maturity, his emotional maturity being that high just wasn’t believable. His perceptions are clear and uncluttered and his emotional development at the end of the book is far more realistic. Danny’s character is way better on his own compared to when he is interacting with his parents.
The Father: Jack’s alcoholism and uncontrolled anger is written exceptionally well, he is a person who doesn’t take responsibility for his actions, he is an addict, and he is selfish and ultimately thinks a great deal more of himself than is healthy. He begins as an angry addict forcing himself to stop and hates how his past keeps getting thrown back in his face. He hates how his wife surreptitiously checks his breath. He hates how people don’t trust him anymore. He wants all the past badness to be erased and trust fully restored. His relationship with his own father offers some explanations for his behaviour and attitudes towards alcoholism, bullying, assault and women. His stay at the hotel takes him down the road to madness and his rage seems to speed him along that path.
The Mother: Wendy is interesting in her psychological dependence on Jack and the thread that runs back to her own mother. She cannot leave Jack because going back to her mother would be ‘worse’. Why could she not stand on her own? She appears to have no other recourse. She is portrayed as conflicted, wishing to keep her family together despite undeniable proof that something is very wrong. She continues to hope unrealistically to achieve some ‘happy family’ somewhere down the line. At the hotel her strength shows far more, and ultimately she protects her son and herself from her maniac of a husband.
The Hero: (In our view) Mr Halloran. The most well rounded character in the whole book. Wise, funny, practical, kind and courageous, salt of the earth kind of person. He takes Danny under his wing so to speak and makes sure that Danny knows he has a friend he can call on if he gets into trouble.
Discussing the Story:
It is essentially a ‘haunted house’ story. Jack gets hired as the winter caretaker of a long established hotel with a checkered history. He brings his family with him. Danny is psychic and can read surface thoughts, Mr Halloran refers to this as ‘shine’ as he too has this skill though Danny is the strongest one he has ever come across. With Danny’s super perception he sees a whole lot more at that hotel and it is frightening to him. In a short time Jack is being influenced negatively by the malevolent spirits in the hotel which ultimately compel him to murder his own family. The spirits want Danny because of his amazing gift. The story has a happy ending in that Jack’s body is killed by Wendy in self-defence, Mr Halloran arrives just in time to save Danny and Wendy, the hotel blows up because the boiler ‘creeps’ and the malevolent spirit is torn free of the hotel and is pulled apart by the wind. Wendy and Danny start a new life, where Wendy is standing on her own feet and Mr Halloran is a firm family friend.
There are elements that didn’t make sense. There was overstatement, some repetition and too much description. The fright parts were well written, designed to make you startle. There were some areas that had such potential but weren’t explored.
Mr Halloran experiences obstacles his entire trip back to the hotel on his rescue mission. If this stalling was meant to be suspenseful it wasn’t necessary. The nail biting wait for him to get there was already enough. Were the ghosts making it next to impossible for him to get there? Was Danny’s proximity to the ghosts making this possible?
Why were the hedge animals outside the hotel so powerful when the ghosts inside weren’t?
There was a malevolent spirit in the shed where the snow mobiles were kept too, not just at the hotel, so why didn’t the ghosts from the hotel flee to the shed to survive a little longer?
A good read but disappointing in places.