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The Moth Diaries by Rachel Klein - Review

The Moth Diaries by Rachel Klein is one of the most beautiful, haunting things I have ever read, which is surprising considering it feels like recounting a bad dream...

The book takes the form of a journal written by an un-named teenager, about her time at an all girls boarding school in America. It is the early Seventies, and her dad, a poet, has recently killed himself. She has an extremely close (almost dependant) relationship with one of the girls at the school, Lucy, and when new girl Ernessa joins the boarders and befriends Lucy, jealously and madness begin to raise their heads. Our narrator begins to assume all bad occurances are in some way related to Ernessa, culminating in her belief that she is a vampire responsible for a number of deaths, Lucy's severe illness and the disintegration of the boarding girls' community.

The Moth Diaries is an extremely gothic, dark read. Amidst the writing you will find: literature extracts romanticising death; themes of suicide and starvation/obsession; the setting of an old hotel converted into a boarding school; an insular, desolate environment; basements, secret passageways and libraries; lesson reading materials of greek tragedy, classics and ancient macabre; slowly mounting suspense through a series of small events; and a sense of creeping suspicion that permeates the chapters like the lingering odour from behind Ernessa's door.
Put frankly: it's no easy read.
There are parallels that can easily be drawn to The Turn of the Screw and even Dracula, story-wise, and I feel that is a compliment to the author as the book is in no way a direct copy of either. Similarities to these novels include the way all "untowards" events are only ever *implied*, events are often indirect accounts, horror is present but never explicit, and most significantly, the question of whether you can trust the narrator is always at the forefront of your mind.

When it comes to the writing itself, the language is simple and to the point, but at the same time it's literary, poetic, subtle, haunting, moody, suspenseful, meandering... It is exactly the kind of book I love to read. The author builds atmosphere and raises the tension cleverly and slowly - perhaps not in the same class as Henry James and Bram Stoker, but we have to remember that The Moth Diaries is a Young Adult novel, and therefore certain things such as pace have to be considered, and a lot more themes are packed in!

The Young Adult classification is probably the only element of the book that I would raise issue with. I have wondered a few times while reading it whether it would have been better as an adult book. There are some truely well written, freakish and disturbing scenes the author creates that made me think she would have written an amazing gothic horror novel without censorship restrictions. I dont think I will be able to erase the images of Ernessa and Lucy on the nights when our narrator encounters them... However, for whatever reasons, The Moth Diaries is YA orientated, and as such I feel the writing is somewhat short of what it could have been! 

Anyway, that's all pretty much my own personal opinion, and probably only goes to show how good this book actually is! I would certainly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a darkly gothic tale of madness and suspicion. And, as I bought this on Kindle for 99p - it is officially the 2nd best book I ever bought at that price: behind Florence and Giles and just before 99 Reasons Why.
It's worth that price and much more.

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