I love Sophie Hannah, and while I didn’t inhale The Orphan Choir the way I did, say, Little Face, I did stay up half the night reading it. I love, love, love the fact that the protagonist is so unlikable. She’s unlikable in a very real way; several times while I was reading I found myself making faces at the page and thinking how very much I would hate to be married to someone like that. It’s exhausting to be Louise Beeston. She’s paranoid and neurotic and narcissistic to the point that she can’t imagine how everything could not be about her. She keeps herself awake weeping because she’s sure her neighbor is plotting against her.
But here’s the other part: her neuroses stem from the fact that her seven year old son, a singing prodigy, has been accepted to a prestigious boarding school. I’ve got a seven year old son; I cannot imagine only getting to see him at performances and on holidays. So she’s horrible, yes, but I can sympathize with some of it.
The horror element of the story builds slowly; if you’re looking for something that will plunge you into the action, this is not the book for you. But because Louise is so self-involved, the reader actually starts feeling the horror before she does, which is a lot of fun.
The bottom line: this is a great ghost story, and a nice departure from Hannah’s other thrillers (which are fantastic in their own right).