Link to buy The White Devil: A Novel
Story Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Seventeen-year-old American Andrew Taylor has been exiled by his father to a 400-year-old English boarding school called Harrow. The plan was to straighten out the young man in the wake of a tragedy he had been involved in back at his old school in America. Harrow School happens to be the alma mater of the 19th Century poet Lord Byron. And, as it happens, Andrew bears a striking resemblance to the handsome late poet. And as it also so happens, Andrew is cast as the lead in a school play about Byron's life.
Not surprisingly, Harrow School's rumored ghost begins appearing to Andrew and seems to have confused him with Byron. This is particularly troubling since Lord Byron might have been the ghost's lover when the two were schoolboys at Harrow together 200 years ago. Which explains Andrew's growing suspicion that the ghost is responsible for the death of the first friend Andrew made at Harrow.
I went into The White Devil with low expectations. A friend had given it to me with the warning that she had been disappointed after loving the author's previous book. But surprisingly, I found myself really enjoying this gothic thriller. And what's not to like? A beautiful bad boy American teenager, a creepy ancient English boarding school, a drunken poet, a ghost, a murder mystery, and a nice little romantic interest with the one girl who attends Harrow School in the midst of hundreds of boys. It's the total package. At first, anyway. But things sometimes deteriorate, just like the lungs of a tuberculosis patient from two centuries ago.
The book does have shortcomings, the most glaring of which is the ending. It's contrived, nonsensical, and depressing all at the same time. Rather than allowing a poor ending to spoil an otherwise entertaining novel, readers should simply turn this into one of those "choose your own endings" books. It will have to be a do-it-yourself variety, but the advantage is that you can decide what you'd like to see happen to the characters instead of accepting what the author came up with. Simply write your own version of how this story plays out, and ignore the last two chapters and epilogue in the book. You'll get to enjoy an improved tale and won't have to lie awake half the night grumbling about how the book ended. The way certain book reviewers among us did last night.
Reviewed by Amanda