In Dolly, we meet Edward Cayley, an orphan, who would spend one summer at his Aunt Kestrel's creepy house in Iyot Lock. Edward would be spending the summer with his cousin, Leonora von Vorst. While the two children almost have the same ages, they couldn't be more different. Edward is pensive and sensitive, and Leonora is terribly spoiled.
Everything seems to be quite an uneventful summer, notwithstanding Leonora's tantrums and complaints. But this is a ghost story after all, and there must be a turning point for these innocuous happenings. In this novel, everything changes on Leonora's birthday, when Aunt Kestrel presents Leonora with a beautiful lifelike doll. But it's not what Leonora had in mind though. Leonora then flings the doll to the wall, cracking its porcelain face and storms out of the room. Edward takes it upon himself to get rid of the doll by burying it outside the house.
Years pass and Edward recalls the many times he has spent other summers at his aunt's. Leonora, on the other hand, never returns. It's only upon the death of Aunt Kestrel when the two meet again to discuss the terms of the will. It appears that their aunt has left everything to Edward. And what about Leonora? She gets the doll her aunt gave her on her 9th birthday. Edward shows Leonora where he buried the doll and reveals it. What was inside the box shocked them. The doll has aged in all those years it was under the ground.
Dolly doesn't stop here though. We get to read how Edward has suffered many sleepless nights hearing a disturbig sound, a sound made by someone, or something, scraping on paper. Edward knows that it's the buried doll, of course. It's calling out to him, as if it were asking him to set it free.
In the novel's final chapters, we get to know how Leonora runs out of money and asks Edward to give her the house. She's down on her luck—divorced, with a 2-year-old baby daughter, and without money. Edward, now a successful man, agrees to have Leonora stay at Iyot Lock. But then makes a very unwise decision. He finds an intricate Indian princess doll in one of his trips and gives it to Leonora. She wouldn't accept it though, and sends it back to him. When he opens the package from Leonora, what the doll looks like now would haunt him. Gone were its beautiful Indian features. The doll now had the features of a crone.
Dolly is one chilling read. Like her other ghost stories, it's almost like a novella at 150 pages. It doesn't quite hold up to the scariness of The Woman in Black, the bleak mood of The Small Hand, or the sense of dread of The Man in the Picture. But it's still a very satisfying read. I just hope that Susan Hill never stops coming out with ghost stories.
Read this book if:
- You love short scary reads.
- You know that dolls are creepy.
- You'll read anything by Susan Hill.