Pam Smy’s Thornhill – brilliantly creepy

thornhillFrom the first pages, festooned with barbed wire, the stage is set for a dark treat in Pam Smy’s Thornhill, a hybrid novel/graphic novel which has been shortlisted for Waterstones’ Children’s Book Prize in the Older Fiction category. The book itself is physically striking – the cover’s silhouettes and the black-edged pages create an object with imposing weight and depth.

From the opening diary entry, with it’s brilliantly sinister cataphoric ‘She is back’, we are plunged into a haunting take of fear and darkness, a sinister sense of foreboding which pervades both the text and the fantastically atmospheric illustrations.

The split narrative is told through the diary entries of Mary Baines, an occupant of Thornhill Institute, an orphanage for girls, in the early 1980s, and the illustrations involving Ella Clarke, a teenage girl who moves to live near the now-abandoned Thornhill in 2017. Smy’s tale has all the hallmarks of a classic gothic tale – a deserted house with a dark past, isolated young girls, secrets and horrors to be revealed.

It’s in the uncovering of events that the graphic form of Smy’s novel is particularly successful. With a film-like zooming in, successive pages bring you closer and closer to things you’re not entirely sure you want to fully see – I turned pages with a quickening heart rate and a desire to peer through my fingers. It is a very creepy read.

This is a brilliant and imaginative novel. The plot itself contains very familiar elements but it’s the rendering of the gothic in Smy’s monochromatic illustrations which make this a gripping and exciting novel for YA and adult readers alike.


3 thoughts on “Pam Smy’s Thornhill – brilliantly creepy

  1. Pingback: Alice Broadway’s Ink – a compelling debut | Books and Wine Gums

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