Mary Downing Hahn Gives a Tale of Isolation and Insight to a Multitude of Worlds

December 4, 2019

One of a few covers for Mary Downing Hahn's novel.

One of a few covers for Mary Downing Hahn's novel.

“The girl is alone in the locked room. At first, she writes the day of the week, the month, and the year on the wall. She means to keep a record of her time in the room. She means to keep a record of her time in the room, but after a while she begins skipping a day or several days. Soon, days, months, and years become a meaningless jumble. She forgets her birthday. And then her name.”

The Girl in the Locked Room, published September 4, 2018 by Mary Downing Hahn, is an uneasy and immoral tale about a young girl who has been imprisoned for more than a century, how she deteriorated in said prison, and a bond that breaks the barrier between the past and the present.

The tale takes place in Virginia after the protagonist, Jules, changes homes again as a result of her father’s career. Her father, who renovates old houses, is given the job to renovate Oak Hill, a long abandoned and menacing home from the 1800’s. 

The chapters alternate between a focus of the title’s ghastly girl and protagonist Jules. Jules, acclimatized to the paranormal, catches glimpses of the girl from her past life and researches former residents of the house and town to prove she had not been dreaming. 

Within a few weeks of settling into her new home, Jules meets a girl by the name of Maisie in the town library who informs her of the known history of Oak Hill. Together, they venture inside the abandoned home and observe the remnants with their own eyes.

With reference to Diana Wynne Jones’s consideration of alternate worlds, Hahn gives an intriguing extensive depth to the tale, despite the conclusion being well ordered. While the tale offers an eerie and suspenseful atmosphere, it never truly crosses into the horror genre, much more like a mystery novel.

Ivonne Rovira left a five star review. “Author Mary Downing Hahn writes ghostly children’s books that will delight adults as well, and her latest, The Girl in the Locked Room proves no exception. I couldn’t put it down, if you’ll pardon the cliché!” 

I quite enjoyed the novel. It had a well planned storyline and interesting characters. However, I would not give it five stars, the conflict was simple and while the story ended well, I believe it could have had a better one.

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