In the aftermath of the mysterious death of their lead singer, the young members of a now-legendary British acid folk band hole up at Wylding Hall, an ancient English country house with its own dark secrets. There they record Wylding Hall, the album that makes their reputation – but at a terrifying cost when Julian Blake, their new lead singer, disappears within the mansion and is never seen again.
Now, years later, the surviving musicians and their friends and lovers – including a psychic, a photographer, and the band’s manager – meet with a young documentary filmmaker to tell their own versions of what happened during that summer. But whose story is the true one? And what really happened to Julian Blake?
Author: Elizabeth Hand
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Narrators: Various/Full Cast
Running Time: 4hrs 37mins
Audio Release Date: 20/03/2015
My Rating of ‘Wylding Hall’: 4 out of 5
Wylding Hall was something that caught my eye on the Audible Plus collection and, with it being a freebie through that, I felt there was zero risk in giving it a go.
I’ll be honest, I had zero clue what to expect (having never experienced the author before), so this is one of those rare books that I can just go in blind and have no preconceived notion as to how good or bad I think a title will be. Which, if I’m honest, is the absolute best way for me. May have to try out more random finds.
I can’t speak for the printed version, but the documentary style of this worked insanely well via audio book. The narrators all did a wonderful job of actually sounding like they lived the experiences being talked about and, I’ll be entirely honest, there were large portions of this where I felt the acting was so good that I just totally forgot it was fiction. If someone had hit play and told me I was listening to an unexplained mystery as told by the surviving members of the band that actually lived it, I’d totally have believed them. So, well done to everyone involved with making this.
The overall story was good, but not excellent. This is mostly because of the open-ended ending that just leaves enough room for every possible outcome to have actually taken place. It’s pretty much a ‘the reader can’t go wrong’ ending … until you talk to someone else who read it and they have a totally different take to you. Then the fun would start with the whole discussion as to what happened. So, I suppose, with that in mind, maybe it was excellent. I really don’t know. Elizabeth Hand has created something that could be amazing or could just be very good.
Either way, I enjoyed it, so bravo to the author.
The horror aspect of this is more atmospheric and very light as all things scary go. It’s the kind of ‘horror’ that pretty much anyone can get through, even if the slightest bit of horror sends them running for the hills in fear. That sounds fairly negative, but for this piece, it worked very well and I really enjoyed it. It felt more realistic due to the lack of overt creepiness. Everything had both a potential rational explanation and a potential grounded explanation.
One other slight negative is that it’s mostly build up. Mostly getting to know the band, the people involved, their little quirks etc …that’s all super-enjoyable, but for a four and a half hour audio book, it did feel like too much slow burn. Yet, oddly, it worked.
I know. Really indecisive review. Apologies.
All in all, I raced through it, loved the characters, the voice acting and the story as a whole. It’s the whole ‘I can’t decide if this was fantastic or just good that has me not giving it top marks. But my 4 out of 5 is certainly towards the higher end of the scale.