Within Wet Walls by Lily Childs is a memoir of mortis that reads like an absinthe soaked book of poetry. A book found in a lost forest with an escape map pencilled on the back. The question is will you follow the directions or use it to ignite a flame of warmth? Well the good news is this book serves both purposes without any need for destruction. Because there are sparks crackling between the sentences and routes to dark yet often beautiful places to be found inside the words.
The creatures that haunt Wealdstone Hall, a medieval manor house in a Sussex forest, are offered in fragments of the grotesque reflected through the parochial existence and brutality of lower life. Their true existence is also fractured as they appear to be part ghost, part faerie and a little more than vampyric. What is never in doubt is their hunger or the fact only flesh will satiate that desire. The first person account by Eliza Lundy adds to a deeper connection of the two realms of existence and the cravings that trap her in both.
House of Three
Stylistically this is a slight departure for Lily Childs. It’s more cutting and sparse than her earlier work (with the exception of House of Three). Yet Childs still maintains the beautiful prose that’s become her calling card within the halls of literary horror. This space allows her to mine into a deeper darkness. One that’s not just chilling but dwells in atavistic burrows.
The blurb suggests Within Wet Walls was inspired by M.R. James and Dickens. While I agree with these comparisons I was also reminded of ‘The House on Rue Chartres’ by Richard A. Lupoff and Lisa Mannetti’s best work. Of course the style is the author’s own, devised and honed over the years as a writer and her work as editor on February Femmes Fatales, Thrills, Kills and Chaos and Ganglion Press. Lily Childs may finally be be on the point of her own literary breakthrough and may look back one day to recognize this publication as the catalyst of that turning point.
When you travel with Lundy you’ll be blindfolded with fear as you come closer to the manor. The recesses of cruelty seep through the walls of Wealdstone House falling in pools of horror and desire. The water ripples with the hum of a song. The melody twists through nearby woods leaving stains of music hanging from winter branches. A route that leads you to a story of another age. If you choose to follow the whispered aria make sure you wrap up warm because Lily Childs types with fingers of ice that refuse to melt even when they dig into your subconscious mind.
The book is a quick trip at only 30 pages long; compact for effect and easy to read in one short sitting. A perfect fireside read for these cold and windy nights, or by candlelight at Christmas.
Take the cold hand of Eliza Lundy and seek out the dark Victoriana refinements of Wealdstone House. You’ll soak up the dewdrops of debauchery from the wet walls and rinse in the beauty that lives among the dust there.
Beacuse Within Wet Walls is a Gothic-black story rising between the petals of a variegated rose garden planted in a bygone age.