Frozen Charlotte by Alex Bell
Opening sentence: “The girls were playing with the Frozen Charlotte dolls again.”
Although dubious about this book at the beginning – mainly due to the plot device of using a Ouija-board app (yes, app) to invoke the ghost that the whole plot hinges on – I ended up actually rather enjoying this creepy tale.
Once the classic horror conventions have been set up – big, old isolated house with a suspicious past, troubled family members, both dead and alive, and the aforementioned ghost, the story gets going at a fast pace, which is the reason it’s so easy to read. Sophie is spending the summer with her Uncle James and her cousins, Piper, Cameron and Lilias in their house in Skye. As soon as she gets there, the strange happenings kick in – her cousins’ sister Rebecca died by the house seven years ago and, much like du Maurier’s Rebecca, she is not physically there but her presence is intense.
Considering this is a young adult book, there are some very gruesome scenes and ideas scattered throughout – both physical and psychological. It’s always the gory details that get me and make my skin crawl, but as this is a horror book, that’s a good sign!
Each chapter opens with a verse from the traditional folk ballad, Fair Charlotte (also called Young Charlotte), which tells the tale of a young girl who doesn’t wear a cloak on her way to a ball, as she wants everyone to see her dress, and ends up freezing to death on the journey there. This cheery song in turn inspired the creation of the real Frozen Charlotte dolls – solid china dolls made from around 1850-1920, ranging in size from an inch to 18 inches. They were traditionally naked with painted on faces – very much a creepy Victorian fad!
These dolls then inspired Alex Bell to weave this macabre story and I really like it when books use real elements in their plot, I feel it gives a little nod of authenticity to the tale.
Overall, there were enough twists to make it an engaging little read that, most importantly, did send shivers down my spine a few times.