Penniless, and escaping the horrors of life as a governess to brutal households, Maud seeks refuge with the cousin-by-marriage she never knew. But Juliana quashes Maud's emerging friendships with the staff and locals - especially John, the artist commissioned to restore the sinister Doom in the local church. John, however, is smitten with Maud and makes every effort to woo her.
Maud, isolated and thwarted at every turn, continues to take the laudanum which was her only solace in London. Soon she becomes dependent on the drug - so is this the cause of her fresh anxieties? Or is someone - or something - plotting her demise?
Is the devil in the corner of the Doom a reality, or a figment of her imagination?
A classic Gothic romance, which is sadly rare in YA as a genre, The Devil in the Corner filled my neglected need for something dark and moody. Why, oh why can't I have a little more dark and moody in my reading? Now that Kenneth Oppel has given up the Victor Frankenstein series, I only have Megan Shepherds books to look too when I'm feeling a need for some Gothic in my reading flavours. Needless to say I've been saving Shepherds follow up, Her Dark Curiosity for a rainy day.
Tone is always really important to me in a Gothic story. Obviously there are certain requirements that need to be met to make a story Gothic, but tone isn't generally one of them. That being said, I particularly like my Gothic stories when they have a certain dryness to them. Not boring dry, but told as if by a narrator who is emotionally removed from the story. To me it lends that shivery quality to the telling, where even great episodes of emotion are told with a cold voice. Elliott did this especially well, and although her story was first person, two person POV, she used the uptight Victorian time period to her advantage, letting it overtake the way in which we are told the story. John and Maud are nothing if they're not proper, and it's this need to be proper and not overly emotive with each other which ends up causing so much trouble. As a modern reader this can be both frustrating and deeply revealing of a century that wasn't that long ago in time but ages away in both mannerisms, and lifestyle (among other things).
I especially like how Elliott used religion and atheism to great effect by centering the story around the Doom painting. How this painting brings everyone together, how it is both feared and revered, but also how Maud seems to see her own fate within it, is a nice touch to a story that is otherwise about cruel relatives and gossiping towns people who will stop at nothing (it would seem), to cast out someone they see as an interloper.
If you're looking for something to mix up your reading a little, then look no further than The Devil in the Corner. It will be your breath of musty, creepy air, and you'll likely enjoy every dire moment of it.
The Devil in the Corner, by Patricia Elliott
Published by Hachette Children's Books (Orchard in the UK), March 2014
My ecopy kindly provided by the UK publisher.