Monday, January 19, 2009

Secret of Canfield House by Florence Hurd [1966]

This is an awesome novel; definitely rates 5 stars out of 5. The scan was obtained via Ebay [corner camera icon]. I would apologize for not being able to provide a face-on scan; this image has the book propped up. *However* it is an excellent image; crisper and nicer than my copy's cover. :-) It's also bluer; my copy's cover is mostly shades of green: Drab olive and muted sage tones. Same publisher - Fawcett Gold Medal; however, the publisher's icon is also different.

The story opens in late October with Emeline [love that name] Ferris' interview with Mrs. Canfield for a job as housekeeper to Canfield House. It's been in the Canfield family for nearly 200 years, previously lived in regularly. For 10 years it went mostly unused, but now Mrs. Canfield intends to visit more frequently. She also is renovating the place, including reinstating all the old fireplaces her father had boarded up and plastered over. Mrs. Canfield's son, Miles, in his mid-30s, also visits Canfield House occasionally but he refuses to spend nights there; when visiting he overnights at the Tayburn Inn [Tayburn is the nearby village].

Emeline is approximately 26 years old and down on her luck. Both parents are now deceased. She fled her New England hometown shortly after nursing her now-deceased father, when a former schoolmate painfully pointed out Emeline's "still single" status. Stung and unconfident, Emeline moves to New York City. She meets a promising suitor...who savagely jilts her. Nearly penniless, depressed and out of her latest job [replaced by a machine!] Emeline is desperate to be hired on at Canfield House. It'll be secure employment, only require dealing with the snooty and demanding Mrs. Canfield 2 days per week [if that], is situated snugly in the countryside. Emeline knows she belongs "back in the country"; NYC was a big mistake.

Emeline is hired. She's given use of a Canfield vehicle and drives to the estate [I loved the descriptives used in the telling of Emeline's countryside journey; it was as good as being along for the ride, and brought back happy memories of my own]. She soon meets the acquaintance of a taciturn and unfriendly storekeeper named Mr. Tuckerman. Next she encounters the tall, large and menacing groundskeeper, Damon, who is terribly territorial of his loft home in the barn, is mute and often seems half-inebriated.

While unpacking the car for her first night at Canfield, Emeline is frightened by what seems a ghastly and bloody premonition. Later she takes a self-guided tour of the mansion. Despite a bit of "the jitters," the home is nice and comfortable...and then Emeline discovers the gold and white room. The second she opens its door, a blast of evil energy hits Emeline, shaking her to the core. Despite her fearful trepidation, Emeline briefly investigates the room. It was a woman's room. She notices a framed photo of a lovely if not haughty and perhaps even cruel young woman; it'd been her room obviously. Emeline quickly develops a morbid fascination for the room and its former occupant: Who was she? Why is this room dusty and festooned with cobwebs; neglected? How was its eye-watering glamour of white and gold [such a stark contrast to the remainder of the house's austere and prim New England decor] allowed? Emeline's curosity intensifies when she learns that, among other things, the gold and white bedroom's door was supposed to be kept locked at all times.

Strange occurrences begin happening. The first is a person wearing a hideous mask, peering through a window on Halloween night. Emeline believes it to be Damon; he seems to hate and resent her.

A friend in "the enemy camp" does appear: Dolly Tuckerman, the sourpuss storekeeper's wife. Dolly is part-time maid and cook to the Canfields; she's red-haired, plump, gold-hearted and jolly. Dolly and Emeline strike up an immediate friendship. Dolly is a terrific character and I especially enjoyed her presence in the novel.

Meanwhile, the danger to Emeline intensifies. Memories of Arabella seem to haunt the place, but also a man is stalking the mansion and threatening Emeline. But why? And what has the eerie and foreboding gold and white bedroom to do with it?

The story ends with an interesting twist and shock. Well worth the reading!

Trixie gives the story 3 Paws: Mrs. Tabby is featured twice [the pregnant cat I posted about recently]. Unfortunately we never read a word about Mrs. Tabby's delivery nor the kittens; thus it only merits 3 Paws.

The cast of characters as I visualized them:

Emeline Harris: Sally Field [age 26]
Mrs. Canfield: Natalie Schafer [age 61]
Miles Canfield: Bill Bixby [age 35]
Dolly Tuckerman: Patrika Darbo [age 47]
Miss Thornbury: Josie Lloyd [age 30]
Dan Tuckerman: As described [age 53]
Damon: As described [age 34]

1 comment:

Debbie K. said...

I really like this book! I read it in the 60's and then again recently. It's still very entertaining.