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Book Review: "Crimson Peak" by Nancy Holder

Adele Cosgrove-Bray is a writer, poet and artist who lives on the Wirral Peninsula in England.


What's it About?

Young heiress Edith Cushing is the apple of her aging father's eye. Like most respectable Victorians he hopes his daughter will marry suitably, and he has in mind a promising doctor who was also Edith's childhood friend, Alan McMichael.

Alan, unfortunately, is something of a ditherer. He delays telling Edith how he truly feels, and meanwhile she is swept off her feet by the handsome Sir Thomas Sharpe, who is not shy about declaring his interest.

Edith begins married life with Thomas at his dilapidated family mansion in the wilds of Yorkshire, a home they share with Thomas's frosty sister Lucille. Edith's hopes for wedded bliss were badly misplaced, as her new husband declines to consummate their marriage. Lucille remains unwelcoming and cold, and Edith feels like an intruder in what was supposed to be her new home.

Will the situation improve once Thomas's red clay mine is restored to working order?

Crimson Peak is Nancy Holder's novelisation of the film by the same name, which was directed by Guillermo Del Toro. Del Toro also co-wrote the screenplay with Mathew Robbins.

Official Film Trailer for Crimson Peak

About the Author

Nancy Holder also writes under the names of Nancy L Jones and Laurel Chandler.

She has written 10 separate series of novels, which tot up to 17 books in all, some of which were co-written with Debbie Viguie and James Lovegrove. Holder has written another 24 stand-alone novels and has contributed to 4 collections and 26 anthologies. She has also edited 4 antholgies, and has many short stories published.

Holder has contributed to the TV series Highlander, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Angel, Smallville, Wishbone, Once Upon a Time, Athena Force, Domino Lady and Kolchak: The Night Stalker.

She helped develop the computer game Dungeon Master, which is marketed by her husband's company FTL Games.

She has won the Bram Stoker Award 4 times.

Nancy Holder (nee Jones) was born in California in 1953 and subsequently lived in Japan then Germany where, at 16, she trained as a ballet dancer. Returning to America, she graduated from the University of California with a degree in communications.

Holder lives in San Diego, America, with her husband Wayne and daughter Belle, plus two corgi dogs and three cats.

What's to Like?

I have not seen the film version of Crimson Peak, and so can't comment on how close the novelisation stays to the film.

Films rely on visual effects and atmosphere created by the soundtrack as much as the plot itself. Some contemporary films are so heavily reliant on computer effects that the plot has almost been sidelined.

With a novel, you just get the words on the page, where the author's technical skills and imaginative power impelsreaders to keep eagerly turning pages, hungry to discover what happens next in the unfolding drama.

When a writer is adapting an existing screenplay and finished film into a book manuscript, they can't diverge too much what's mapped out already otherwise it would end up as a different story. They can describe physical environments shown on the silver screen and use emotional reactions and dialogues which have already been acted out, but the author can also add literary flesh these pre-existing structures by weaving in the various characters' private thoughts and feelings plus additional backstories of the author's own creation.

With Edith's character, we have someone who starts off as a passive dreamer-cum-victim and who gradually finds her inner strength so she can resist then fight back against her tormentors.

With Thomas's character we have a stereotypical schemer with a heart of ice who, towards the end of the novel, finds some glimmer of conscience with which to defend Edith from his insane sister.

With Alan, we have the selfless hero good-guy doctor who battles impending death to rescue Edith.

Crimson Peak is technically well crafted with distinct characters, making for an entertaining light read.

What's Not to Like?

Edith came across initially as an easily-influenced young woman who was swept up in a naive fantasy about marrying an aristocrat, even if he was clearly financially strapped. She gleefully researched the Sharpe family home to be sure it was as grand as she hoped, but somehow her researches failed to reveal family's unfortunate history or even hint at the extent of Thomas's poverty. Surely her widowed father and her tutors would have warned her, a wealthy heiress, to be wary of fortune hunters?

How did the ghost of Edith's mother know, in advance, about the dangers waiting for Edith at Crimson Peak?

And how, through all Edith's eager researches into the Sharpe family home had she not learned of its colourful nickname?

While the novel was fun, it plotted a familiar tale about a dopey young woman falling for a bad guy and getting stung before being rescued by an overlooked bloke-next-door type who, predictably, wins her in the end. Equally predictable was the mansion's final fate. But maybe that's how the film ended?


The biographical and bibliographical information in this article came from:

  1. http://nancyholder.com/
  2. https://www.fantasticfiction.com/h/nancy-holder/
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nancy_Holder

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