Digital version – browse, print or download
Receive the latest news & reviews direct to your inbox!
Once they have read this novel, teachers in the habit of taking their teenage students to the theatre may well think twice before doing so again, particularly if the theatre in question is, as is the case here, part of London’s Barbican. Four boys from the exclusive-sounding Walsingham School and four girls from the rather more raucous Swatham Academy, together with their teachers, are there to see Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1 – but the spectacle which they will witness will be something very different and something very much more terrifying. For, as we are reminded at one point, rumour has it that the Barbican was built on the site of one of London’s plague pits, a mass grave for victims of the Black Death: it is a history which, as the young people are to discover, casts some very dark shadows. When ‘a long line of spider-like creatures’ starts to emerge from the air vents of the theatre’s foyer, the stage is set (so to speak) for a schlock horror story which, in some of its moments at least, is definitely not for the faint-hearted, though it must be said that its pacing is brilliant and all the more remarkably so in a narrative which is skilfully compressed into something just under six hours of a particular evening. Horror apart, however, Enthoven’s novel merits considerable notice in its nicely observed delineation of gender roles and social nuances; this, in other words, is a novel for a readership some distance beyond what the horror genre usually targets.