In the Night Wood by Dale Bailey

Posted On 14 November 2018

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IntheNightIn the Night Wood is a book that I finished with mixed feelings.  On the one hand I loved the gothic premise, the idea of an old mansion and an enchanted forest.  The writing is really impressive and there are so many bookish quotes and references that you couldn’t throw a stick around these pages without hitting something of note.  It’s also a relatively quick read and I can’t deny that the idea of the dark forest that seems to almost have a mind of it’s own left me deeply intrigued – not to mention a huge antlered beast.

So, why the mixed feelings.  In a nutshell the main protagonist was really difficult for me to like – in fact I didn’t like him at all.  He’s a raging MCP who felt massively out of sync with the modern world in which he’s living.  I think this is the closest I’ve come in a long while to having the irrational urge to throw my kindle across the room.

The book gets off to a good start.  We learn of Charles who since being a young boy has had a fascination with a novel named In the Night Wood.  The book, written by a Victorian author, has gained a cult like status, it’s creepy and almost sinister nature belying what appears to be a children’s story at first glance.  Time moves on apace and Charles meets a young woman, unbelievably a distant relative of Caedmon Hollow – the legendary author of Charles most favourite book, it seems fated that the two should fall desperately in love.

Time then moves forward again, things have spiralled out of control for Charles and his wife.  Their young daughter dies in a tragic accident and at the same time it becomes apparent that Charles has been having an affair with one of his fellow academic colleagues.  He takes a leave of absence from work (at the polite but insistent request of his superiors) and his situation looks dire indeed until his wife unexpectedly inherits Hollow House and the two leave America to take up residence in the huge dusty mansion that will become their home.  For Charles this spells the start of a new beginning.  He’s writing a biography about Caedmon Hollow and what better inspiration could he hope for than living in the author’s own home, surrounded by the dark forest that plays such a huge role in the original tale, plus who knows what he’ll find lurking in those old closed up rooms?

You have to admit this has a great premise and there are plenty of inspirational moments during the read.  I liked the author’s style although I think he can occasionally become a little more wordy than is really necessary.  There is atmosphere and folklore thrown into the mix and even a quaint little village.  But, Charles just got on my last nerve.  I can’t lie.  And, maybe it shouldn’t matter, but I couldn’t get past it.  I would explain why but frankly that direction would just lead to a massive rant which I don’t think would be helpful.  Suffice to say Charles changed the read for me and every time I started to sink into the story he would say or do something unbelievable or ridiculously maddening and tear me straight out of my wormhole.

So, was this a bad book?  No it wasn’t, but at the same time it ultimately wasn’t for me.  On a different note, whilst this book didn’t quite work out I would certainly like to try more by this author.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.



18 Responses to “In the Night Wood by Dale Bailey”

  1. Tammy

    It’s too bad that one character ruined the book for you. But I’ve been there too. Sorry, that cover is so pretty!

    • @lynnsbooks

      The cover is great and that and the premise totally grabbed my attention. But Charles – urgh. I wanted to knock him out.
      Lynn 😀

  2. Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    Oh, yes, not liking the protagonist can really break a book even if everything else is wonderful. Wonder if the author has written something else that would have all the strengths, but a more likable protagonist

    • @lynnsbooks

      I’ll have to check. This one just annoyed me – I couldn’t help it. I would read more by the author though.
      Lynn 😀

  3. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    I don’t think this would be a book for me either, as several things you mentioned are already raising some red flags. A shame though, I’m always looking for good gothic reads!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yeah, I love gothic reads too but Charles just got on my last nerve and I found it very hard to have any time or sympathy with him.
      Lynn 😀

  4. waytoofantasy

    Great review. I always have a problem enjoying a book if I can’t get with the main character. It really does ruin a lot for me as a reader. I really want to pick this one up though, just for the cover. Does that make me book shallow? hahaha. 😀

    • @lynnsbooks

      Nope – I totally spotted this by the cover – which I love. Shame about the main guy. I hope you give it a go – I”d love to know what you think.
      Lynn 😀

      • waytoofantasy

        I’ll probably still check it out at some point. 🙂

  5. Cathy746books

    What a stunning cover though! Shame this didn’t quite work as the premise sounds good.

    • @lynnsbooks

      The premise is great but I couldn’t like the main character and I know that sometimes the book can still be good in site of that but I just found his so annoying that I think he overtook any other positive emotions that I might have had whilst reading.
      Lynn 😀

  6. sjhigbee

    Superb review, Lynn. I love that beautiful cover – but like you, I can’t get on with a book if I don’t like the main protagonist.

    • @lynnsbooks

      It’s a shame really but Charles just annoyed me – almost all the time.
      Lynn 😀

  7. Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky

    I think this protagonist might give me horrible flashbacks to the Mage Against the Machine MC. 😀 But boy, I do love the premise!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yeah, it’s a shame I couldn’t get on with the MC – I certainly don’t want to put others off reading though because the premise is great others might not be as bothered by hi as I was
      Lynn 😀

  8. bkfrgr

    Nope, can’t do it! A MCP = the biggest turnoff. I want to hear about the forest and the house, but I can wait for someone to write something like that with an awesome main character Great review – good to hear your thoughts! 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      Thanks – it’s a shame I couldn’t get on with the main character but that’s the way the cookie crumbles sometimes.
      Lynn 😀

  9. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    An unlikable main character is not something new in a book, but they usually have some interesting quality that more than compensate for the flaws and helps us readers connect with it and the story, but from your review it would seem that this protagonist is not just unlikable, but also something of an idiot, which I guess would ruin the enjoyment of the book as well..
    Thank you so much for sharing this! 🙂

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