My rating: Beach vacation (3/5)
At fifteen, Miss Maud Greenwood, was forced to become a governess. Her mother and father are both dead and she has no choice but to leave her school behind and enter into a life of service. Unfortunately, life in service is horrifying for Maud and she ends up taking laudanum in order to keep the nightmares at bay. Maud’s circumstances finally seem to be changing for the better when she hears from her distant cousin, Juliana, who wishes Maud to come and live with her. Maud hopes that she’ll finally find someone who will care for her and be able to move past her experiences as a governess; however, Juliana proves to be an unpleasant mistress and keeps Maud from making relationships with the locals. Maud’s only outlet is John, the artist who has been commissioned to restore a painting, the Doom, in the local church. When John is forced to leave and Juliana takes to her sickbed, Maud is left unprotected in a village that begins to aim their suspicions at Maud.
Devil in the Corner is most definitely a gothic tale. There’s a mystery, a creepy painting, and an isolated house. But what struck me the most about Devil in the Corner was the writing style; it was so reminiscent of the classic gothic tales I have read. At the time I was reading Devil in the Corner, I was also reading Daphne Du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn, another gothic romance. While the plot lines are not alike, the writing style is very similar, and I found the writing in Elliot’s novel to be the strongest part of the reading experience. She does the gothic well. It was mysterious and readers are continually left wondering what has happened and what will happen to Maud.
What appealed to me less in Devil in the Corner was the characterizations. There was something simplistic about Maud and John, and while I think this fits my comparison to the classics, I would have preferred a little more meat to the characters. Readers continued to get hints about what happened to Maud as a governess, and while these hints were disturbing, I felt that it took too long to learn more about this. I also feel exploring this past would have went a long way in explaining why Maud was the way she was. I also think a further acknowledgement of this past would have strengthened the romance between Maud and John. What has happened to Maud has affected her interactions with John and it will impact any future relationship between the two and I would have liked to see this play out. The fact that John has no idea what has happened to Maud left me feeling that the novel was unfinished with respect to their relationship.
Ultimately, I did enjoy reading Devil in the Corner. The writing was good, and if you’ve enjoyed other gothic novels like Jamaica Inn or Northanger Abbey I think you’ll like this one as well.
*Review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.
If you enjoyed the gothic elements in The Devil in the Corner I strongly urge you to snap up a copy of Jamaica Inn. The setting is a little more gloomy but the heroine, Mary, reminds me a little of Maud. It’s a great book and I hear that it’s being made into a BBC film (yay!).
If you liked the light romance between Maud and John, I would recommend Julia Donaldson’s Blackmoore. It has some gothic elements and I found the romance to be quite similar as both couples seem rather naive. And it’s a title that Stacey and I both agreed on in September 2013.
Lastly, I’m going to recommend Simone St. James. Now I think you should read ALL of her books, but if you’re looking for one similar to Devil in the Corner, I would go with An Inquiry Into Love and Death. This is one creepy and atmospheric novel, and I would recommend it if you were hoping there was more of a paranormal flavor in Devil in the Corner.