“You may never want to leave the house at the bottom of the lake.”
I was looking forward to reading Josh Malerman’s new novella ‘A House at the Bottom of a Lake’ being a huge fan of his terrifyingly brilliant debut novel ‘Bird Box’. If you haven’t read that book buy it today, wearing a blindfold could never be more nerve jangling. After such a great debut I’m not surprised Malerman has played around with fiction in a shorter form, this novella being the latest after a few short stories. Taking his time before that often difficult second novel is probably a sage play. I just heard ‘Black Mad Wheel’ will release in May 2017, so that’s something to look forward to.
Spanning a brief 116 pages and 37 very short chapters this lovely novella is published by our friends over at ‘This is Horror’. Perfect for teen or YA readers, especially those who like short books. Malerman’s ‘Bird Box’ is a previous winner of their ‘Novel of the Year’ award, so it is no surprise ‘This is Horror’ have him joining their ranks.
‘A House…’ was a very entertaining mood piece, difficult to classify, it’s neither an out and out ghost story or a pure horror one, but flirts around the edges of both. However, at its core, it’s a clever coming of age story, even without any supernatural elements the relationship between the two teens is very engaging. In some ways, it is both sexy and dreamy as we see both seventeen-year-olds through the eyes of the other as the obsession in the lake strengthens, and their connection to each other and their shared secret goes deeper.
For a first date, James asks Amelia to go canoeing with him to a lake, which leads to a second remoter lake. It is the summer holidays; they are attracted to each other, sexually inexperienced and nervous. Even in confines of the novella format, there was enough here to flesh out both the protagonists into fully rounded, terrific characters, and there were real friction and spark in their relationship as it moved through the various stages of exploration, longing and young love. While exploring the other quieter lake the couple find a secret entrance to a third lake, and on this third lake, they canoe over a house under the water. They can see the roof very close to the surface of the water. They go diving and find that the house is perfectly preserved and that it has a strange pull on them. But are they alone in this perfectly preserved house where you almost feel like knocking on the door before entering?
To say much more would spoil this very enjoyable little read. As they explore each other further and this reflects the deeper they travel into the house it moves more into the world of the supernatural, and there are a few subtle chills. At certain stages, the story may even flirt with magical realism, and I think every reader at certain points may reflect on their own teenage years and the pain associated with these difficult early relationships. Malerman has constructed a story which I think will have quite a wide appeal and is a reticent, almost melancholic read, which may well take you back to a time when you thought first love might last forever.