Started Jan 2, 2021
Finished Jan 15,2021
I am a simple reader—I see an interesting cover and “horror” as the genre, and I’m probably going to put it in my cart. Given that, it was obvious The House Without A Summer by DeAnna Knippling was going on my TBR. I mean, look at this cover, folks.
The promise of gothic horror and a vaguely-Lovecraftian/clockwork cover? Glorious.
In The House Without A Summer, Knippling shares the tale of the Penderbrook estate. In a year where unusually moist, cool weather is causing mayhem to the world’s agriculture, Marcus has returned from the war front to his family home after word of his brother’s death. While there, he learns from Lucy, his childhood friend (and brother’s fiance-to-be), of a red fungus overtaking the area and the downright bizarre behavior of his father. And yes, as forewarning, our main character has more daddy issues than my TikTok feed, which is truly saying something.
While I understand gothic horror tends to luxuriate in its details, I felt like this luxury really slowed down the pace. It took me around two weeks of off-and-on reading to work through the roughly 230 pages, whereas a similar sized but better-paced novel rarely lasts more than a few days, if that.
The tradeoff for the slower pace is a greater exploration of the scenery and mood of Penderbrook and its inhabitants. It was easy to imagine the estate, following the characters through its halls and outbuildings. The surrounding “Year Without A Summer” is illuminated clearly, and its impacts shown in their devastating effects on the world. Admittedly, it sounds awful and I never want to go there, but I could probably trot my way to the kitchens and then to the library of Penderbrook if I had the misfortune of showing my face there.
Something I feel should be noted to any would-be readers is the stylistic shift between the first portion of the novel and the back ~20%. The switch between the two was somewhat jarring to read, and while both are good on their own, they felt so different I wonder if she had taken a long break in the middle of creating the tale. A glance at Goodreads suggests that I’m not the only person who felt this way, so be aware if you decide to partake.
Noteworthy for the Kindle edition is a couple of small typos (primarily a spot where two characters with B names have their names interchanged a few times). For the most part, these were innocuous enough and easy to skim over, with just a few affecting the reading experience.
Overall, while not a terrible read, I wouldn’t call The House Without A Summer a particularly excellent read either. If you enjoy the classic conventions of gothic horror, character-heavy narrative, and explorations of how people can relate to one another and their desires, I’d say pick it up if you see it on sale. Maybe. (But man, what a rad cover.)
Rating: 3.5 / 5
Will I Reread?: No
Will I Recommend?: For the most part, no