Wylding Hall, by Elizabeth Hand

25010941In 1972 a folk-rock band retreated to a crumbling Tudor manor house to work on songs for their second album. The guitarist disappeared, never to be heard from again. No one knows exactly what happened. Wylding Hall, by Elizabeth Hand, is composed of interview material from the surviving band members, their manager, a journalist for NME, and a local kid who caught something weird on camera. Wylding Hall is frustratingly brief, even for a novella. Hand gives you hints of what might have happened, but the mystery of what really happened to Julian Blake remains.

Windhollow Faire, in 1972, was just starting to make a name for itself when manager Tom Haring sends the quintet of potheads off to the country to practice new material. Through the frame of interviews with an unnamed writer, each surviving member of the band gets a distinct voice. The bassist is resolutely grounded in the empirical. The drummer and fiddler aren’t so sure there wasn’t something supernatural going on. The other lead singer of the band seems to know a bit more, but she’s been fighting off accusations of being a jilted girlfriend ever since that make her a less than willing informant.

Julian Blake is described by everyone who knew him as a shy man who didn’t like to be touched. The only thing that draws him out of his shell are old songs and archaeology. When he discovers an old song by Thomas Campion, it’s clear that there’s something odd and wrong about it. It sounds like someone trying to cast a spell. That song and all the strange rhymes and folklore about wrens give the whole vibe around Wylding Hall a distinctly supernatural feeling.

Because we never hear from Julian himself, we will never know just what happened at Wylding Hall that long ago summer. This novella is definitely not for readers who don’t like ambiguous endings.

I received a free copy of this ebook from NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.


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