Dr. Faraday has always been a little fascinated with the sprawling mansion called Hundreds, owned by the Ayres family. Ever since he was a young boy and his mother, a former nanny to the family, took him inside for a brief visit during a picnic on the grounds, the large home has held an unnamable interest for him. Through a random string of occurrences in his adult life, he finds himself becoming entangled in the lives of the family and as a result gets the chance to reacquaint himself with the place. Yet things have changed. The war has caused the house fall into disrepair, and it’s occupants are tense and unhappy despite their forced gaiety, haunted by a presence that cannot name…a presence that wants them out at any cost.
Not bad. Atmospheric rather than shockingly scary, and takes a while to really get going. In the end absolutely nothing is explained, not really, but that somehow works in this instance, because everyone in the family as well as Dr. Faraday has their own ideas about what, exactly is haunting them. I liked that in the end it was left up to the reader to decide what the root cause of all the misery was. Most of the very interesting bits had almost nothing to do with the “ghost” story and everything to do with the dynamics of class and family relations. The tension brought about by shifting class structure and one family’s outright refusal to accept the death of the old ways is in some respects far more compelling than whatever is in the house that is trying to eject them. In some ways, it seems that there isn’t really an entity in Hundreds, that what really destroys the family is their resistance to the death of the traditional “genteel” class. The novel, like the family, is by turns charming and repellent, calling to a manufactured nostalgia at the same time that it shows that nostalgia to show the slow destruction of a family that is nothing more than a relic of times gone by. In a way, the Ayres family is Hundreds, a throwback to times past crumbling under its weight.