Review – The Dollhouse: A Ghost Story by Charis Cotter


A creepy, mysterious dollhouse takes center stage in this atmospheric middle-grade mystery for fans of Doll Bones and Small Spaces.

Alice’s world is falling apart. Her parents are getting a divorce, and they’ve cancelled their yearly cottage trip — the one thing that gets Alice through the school year. Instead, Alice and her mom are heading to some small town where Alice’s mom will be a live-in nurse to a rich elderly lady.

The house is huge, imposing and spooky, and everything inside is meticulously kept and perfect — not a fun place to spend the summer. Things start to get weird when Alice finds a dollhouse in the attic that’s an exact replica of the house she’s living in. Then she wakes up to find a girl asleep next to her in her bed — a girl who looks a lot like one of the dolls from the dollhouse . . .

When the dollhouse starts to change when Alice isn’t looking, she knows she has to solve the mystery. Who are the girls in the dollhouse? What happened to them? And what is their connection to the mean and mysterious woman who owns the house?


I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

The plot was superb, mysterious, and creepy. Not knowing what is reality and what isn’t keeps you intrigued. Some parts as an adult reader I was able to guess, but there is a lot of mystery still to uncover and I imagine the target audience of middle-grade readers won’t ‘get it’ as quickly!

The interwoven lives of the characters and events were brilliant, the concept of being back in time as a ‘ghost’ in the past was really inventive. The writing style and pacing worked really well, building an eerie and atmospheric feel with moments of menace and discontent.

Alice is a fun character, her wild imagination gets her carried away but when she realises that actually her imagination and the real world are blending, she understands that she can’t tell the adults in her life the full extent of what is happening to her as they won’t believe her. The turmoil of the changes happening in her life with her parents separating, being moving away, then obtaining a head injury, and living in a haunted house, is a lot for anyone to cope with! Her character really grows and develops as a young person. She shows great empathy for others and a lot of sass. I enjoyed that she experienced a full range of senses in her dreams, the sounds, the smells, the feel of fabrics, the little details that were important to the story.

I had a fun time trying to figure out what was happening, how the dollhouse and dreams worked together, how the past affected the future. Really interesting and fun.

I don’t normally comment on other reviews but I do just want to add… this is a middle-grade book, it has been written for kids. Those that have said it wasn’t scary enough for them – of course…you are an adult! Those that have said it is too scary and that kids won’t be able to sleep, then I suggest your child is too young and it is your personal choice if you don’t want them to read it, as a mother and librarian I think this book is spot on for readers aged 9-12! (Rant over, lol).

Thank you so much to Penguin Random House Canada, Tundra Books for the e-arc to review.

Author Bio

Charis Cotter is a writer, editor and storyteller living in Newfoundland. She grew up in Cabbagetown and Parkdale in downtown Toronto. After taking a degree in English at Glendon College, York University, she went on to study acting at The Drama Studio in London, England. After several years as an actor, she moved into publishing, where she has been working as a freelance editor and writer for more than 20 years.

In 2005 Charis won the Heritage Toronto Award of Excellence for her book, Toronto Between the Wars: Life in the City 1919–1939. Since then she has written several critically acclaimed children’s books, including a series of biographies about extraordinary children and an illustrated book about international ghosts. Born to Write: The Remarkable Lives of Six Famous Authors was a finalist for the 2010 Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-fiction.

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