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The ‘Old Willis Place’ Book Review

Categories Book Review

Review, Pages 7 (1612 words)



Review, Pages 7 (1612 words)

The ‘Old Willis Place’ by Mary Downing Hahn is about two siblings who lived in a far away woods. The two children, Diana and Georgie Eldrige are excited about a new caretaker of the old Willis place since this mansion is already abandoned for years. They believe that the mansion is hunted by its owner, Lilian Willis. The two does not dare to enter even the premises of the house for the fear that Mrs. Willis’ ghost might attack them. When the new caretaker arrived, they were ecstatic especially Diana because he had a daughter—Lissa.

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At the very sight of Lissa, Diana knew that she wanted to be friends with her but her brother warned her over time that it was too risky.

Apparently, the two children have rules that they should remain in hiding and that nobody should see them. But, friendship was too hard to resist for Diana. Eventually, she decided to befriend Lissa against her brother’s protests.

As their friendship progressed, the turn of events became both mysterious for both Diana and Lissa who coincidentally suffered great loss in their lives. As Diana narrates to Lissa their story, Lissa uncovers in the end a mystery—that after all the sibling’s fear of Mrs. Willis as the ghost, it turned out that actually, the two of them were really the ghosts! (Hahn, 2004)

The beginning of the book does not really give a bright picture of the whole scenario. Any reader that does not have a background of the story might wonder what the writer is trying to convey.

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As the story progress, the characters become more develop and the questions that in the reader’s mind are answered one by one. Although “the rules” are explicitly narrated in the first few parts of the story, the author gives you the rush to turn every page just to find out what are the bases for those rules and admittingly, the reader also wants to know more about “the rules”.

The writer was successful in maintaining an aura of mysticism throughout the story. But, if the reader is widely influenced by the media, Internet, movies, etc., one might think that after reading chapter three, it actually gives you a hunch that the two children are the ghosts. For the most part of the story actually, I was already guessing that they are the ghost and not Mrs. Willis. And having said that, the story reminds us of the movie The Sixth Sense.

The two have a very similar plot. At first, the reader might assume that the ghost is Mrs. Willis but the book is rather flooded with subtitles that easily give the reader a clue that it was not her that is the ghost. As you continue reading the book, you might wonder about the kids. You will start to ask questions about the children’s family or if there is any truth to their nightly story telling. These kinds of questions and situations are a dead giveaway as to who really is the ghost.

It is also notable that alongside the story, there are unexpected twists and turns. Further, as you read the story, it becomes fast-paced and together with it, the characters are also developed into realistic and memorable characters. Hahn executed the plot in a proper blend of scare and subtleness. It is also remarkable how she was able to accomplish and sustain the warmth of the friendship amidst the creepy setting of the story. The two main characters were very brave in solving the ambiguity in their characters which eventually lead to their respective and well deserved freedom.

The writer was also sensitive enough to think about her readers. From the way that she wrote the story, it was clear that she wrote it for teenagers. She was subtle enough not to use gruesome word that her readers might not be able to digest. But at the same time, she was also able give her readers the creep after reading her book. It was masterfully written. Another good thing about this book is that Hahn wrote the book in the perspective of the two main characters. In essence, she was not biased as to whose perspective the story will run. Because of such distinction, it built pressure and raised an awful lot of questions and allowed all the characters, not to mention the mysteries of the story to unfold itself slowly in the duration of the story. Again, the writing style of Hahn added to the spooky effect of the story.

More than the ghost story that it wanted to project, we should not forget that it was also a story about friendship and emancipation. From the part wherein Diana announced that she wanted to be friends with Lissa, it signaled a time that although there are rules regarding having friends in Lissa’s world, it did not deter her to acquire a new friend. Their friendship became the key to the children’s enigma and secrets. As their friendship grow everyday, they soon found out that Mrs. Willis actually became so cruel to the children and they discovered that she was the cause of their death by locking them in the cellar.

With Lissa’s help, both parties have discovered that for the children’s journey to be complete, three things must be done. First is that their bodies should be found and give them a proper burial. Second is that, Mrs. Willis must ask for forgiveness from the children and the last is that the children themselves should also forgive Mrs. Willis for locking them in the cellar. In the end, all three tasks were accomplished and so, they were set free. This was all possible with the help of Lissa. The children would not be able to it themselves if it were not for Lissa and their friendship.

 One weakness that I see in the way that Hahn unfurled the story is that although it was securely and slowly executed, the delivery of the climax was quite limited. Limited in a sense that some of the highlights and actions are told through Lissa’s diary. For me, it worked sometimes but I think the Hahn could have done something more powerful if she narrated the story descriptively and did not use a second person to tell the juicy parts of the story. This is so because the diary per se became an obstacle between the readers and the actions. Overall, as I see it, other people will thoroughly enjoy reading this book because it is just the proper blend of coolness and mystery fit for us.

This book is one of a kind in its genre. It really serves and live dup to its purpose—which is to give the hair raising experience to its readers (I sure know this because I got the chills, not to mention the nightmares after reading the book). In this modern day, I have read and watched other books and movies (respectively) of the same content. So, this book is actually not surprising for me. In addition, there were subtexts in the story which implied the ending of the story. If you try to read between the lines and trust your hunches, then, there is no mistaking about your guesses. Aside from the explicit mood that the story is presenting, what usually the reader fails to notice is that it is still a story about friendship and redemption.

This is still another story wherein it implicitly says that friendship knows no boundaries whenever each other need help. This story is a proof that humans and non humans alike still have a desire to free themselves of their baggage.  As for an 8th grader, the redemption part is not usually apparent but if you look at closely and examine the story at the end, you can deduce that it was the part wherein the two kids were liberated from the dark secret that the old mansion and the woods hold. Together with Lissa, the two kids were able to discover that they are, after all the ghost that hunts the old mansion and not Mrs. Willis after all.

Over all, this book is really a good read. If you are seeking to find a book that has mystery, friendship, action and a little bit of horror on it, then, this is book is for you. Hahn was very good in deed in have something of everything in t he book. She did not fail to capture her reader’s interest by slowly giving out the clues in every page. Like the usual spices of a good book, it also has its downside.

Aside from the fact that the climax was written from a second person’s point of you, I think that it also failed to come up with a more refreshing approach on its plot. This I have said because of the unoriginality of the twist. The writer did not lack in developing the characters but I think that the author should have done something more extraordinary about the set-up because it was so “country”.

If you are bored and tired of watching the latest movie that hits the town, I guess that this book would be perfect to give a try. In our time, this boo will not give you a one-of-a-kind shiver but it will make you reflect on maybe the current stage of your relationship with others (i.e. your friends) and how you would go (or if ever you would) the distance so that both of you will grow together everyday and be a part of improving each other’s lives.


Hahn, M. D. (2004). The Old Willis Place: A Ghost Story: Clarion Books.


Cite this essay

The ‘Old Willis Place’ Book Review. (2017, Mar 28). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/the-old-willis-place-book-review-essay

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