The Little Wax Doll
2 journalers for this copy...
It was too good to be true...
The position Canon Thorby offered Deborah as head mistress in his private school
in the picturesque English village of Walwyk included a generous salary,
a lovely cottage, and even a cat. After twenty years as a missionary in Africa,
it seemed that Miss Deborah Mayfield had finally found a place to settle.
It WAS too good to be true.
For Walwyk was not what it appeared to be. The idyllic little village masked a hideous secret - a secret that could destroy the innocent as well as the guilty.
Miss Mayfield had no way of knowing that she, too, was about to become a part of that secret.
Originally published as The Devil's Own.
Since I love gothic horror and the book only cost a dime, I bought it.
It's a strange little book.
Didn't love it ... didn't hate it ... was mostly bored with it.
I did hate the ending and I'm very glad to be done with it.
CONTROLLED RELEASE NOTES:
Later: I wasn't sure what to expect from this one, other than "middle-aged schoolmarm encounters alleged village witch", but it turns out that this is a nicely-layered novel in which Miss Mayfield, the middle-aged woman whose career has included many years at an African mission and some troubled times in London, accepts a post at a private school in a very lovely little village in the remote English countryside. The amenities are delightful, and at first it seems she's finally landed in a perfect spot in which to spend the rest of her days - but she discovers that local village politics and prejudice are very much in play. When one of her students shows signs of being abused by her grandmother, Miss Mayfield attempts to intervene, kicking off a series of increasingly disturbing events that might be coincidence or mundane or... something else entirely...
The code of silence in the village, the terror of the abused girl when Miss Mayfield makes any attempt to talk to her about her problems, and the fates of others who cross the malevolent and controlling Grandma Rigby lead Miss Mayfield to actions that result in calamity for her, and a growing sense that she must risk all if there's any hope of saving young Ethel.
The story did a fine job of skirting the line between maybe-magic/maybe-mundane (and maybe some of both), showing how the atmosphere of conspiracy and fear could make otherwise decent people do awful things. Miss Mayfield herself has inner resources that the villagers didn't count on, but her inner turmoil over how to act, who - if anyone - to trust, and whether all this is in her own head or a real threat drives a good deal of the narrative.
The climax is both dramatic and understated; we see it through Miss Mayfield's eyes (though in the third person) and her personal morals prevent her from looking too closely or even thinking about some things in any detail, but this adds that level of "what you imagine is worse than what you're told" to the suspense. Will she triumph over a peril that she'd scarcely allowed herself to believe could be true?
Lots of lovely (and sometimes creepy) character bits, with the narrative occasionally dipping into the thoughts and perspectives of other characters, with the final paragraph involving one of these in a revelation that surprised me while making perfect sense.
[There's a TV Tropes page on the film adaptation, with some entertaining tidbits.]
WILD RELEASE NOTES:
I left this book in the Little Free Library; hope someone enjoys it!
[See other recent releases in NH here.]
*** Released for the 2021 e-less challenge. ***
*** Released for the 2021 The The challenge. ***
*** Released for the 2021 Movie challenge. ***
*** Released for the 2021 Keep Them Moving challenge. ***