The Unsuitable

Holt. Apr. 2020. 288p. ISBN 9781250246288. $26.99. HORROR
DEBUT Iseult has endured a painful life, both emotionally and physically, believing that she caused her mother’s death in childbirth and that her mother’s ghost lives inside the scar on her neck. Iseult spends many hours talking to her mother’s spirit and trying to free her by repeatedly slicing at the scar. Now approaching 30—a spinster by Victorian standards—Iseult is under pressure from her father to marry. He views his awkward, difficult daughter as a burden, and he’s elated to finally find a suitor who isn’t scared away by her unusual behavior. The impending nuptials lead Iseult to behave in increasingly violent and unpredictable ways, as she struggles to make a last gasp at regaining her agency.
VERDICT A weird and bloody ghost story combining the terror of mental illness with body horror that, while set in a gothic world, features a sensibility more at home in the 21st century. Similar in appeal to the intense psychological suspense of Sarah Waters’s The Little Stranger mixed with the real-life horror of the domestic abuse and self-harm at the heart of Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects.
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