The Orphan Choir by Sophie Hannah
Published by Hammer
10th October 2013
Louise is bereft. Her seven year old son Joseph has been sent away to boarding school against her wishes, and she misses him desperately.
And the neighbour from hell is keeping her awake at night by playing loud intrusive music.
So when the chance comes to move to the country, she jumps at it as a way of saving her sanity.
Only it doesn’t.
Because the music seems to have followed her.
Except this time it’s choral music, sung by a choir of children that only she can see and hear…
It’s quarter to midnight. I’m standing in the rain outside my next-door neighbour’s house, gripping his rusted railings with cold wet hands, staring down through them at the misshapen and perilously narrow stone steps leading to his converted basement, from which noise is blaring. It’s my least favourite song in the world: Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’.
There’s a reddish-orange light seeping out into the darkness from the basement’s bay window that looks as unappealing as the too-loud music sounds. Both make me think of hell: my idea of it. There are no other lights on anywhere in my neighbour’s four-storey home.
My lower ground floor next door is dark and silent. We mainly use it as guest accommodation, and as we don’t often have guests it is usually empty. It comprises two bedrooms, a playroom-cum-Xbox room for Joseph, and a large bathroom. All of number 19’s internal cellar walls have been knocked down to make a single, vast area: either a chill-out den or an entertaining space, depending on whether you’re talking to my neighbour or his girlfriend.
I think the label ‘entertaining space’ worries him because of its public-spirited implications. The word ‘entertain’ suggests that one might give a toss about other people other than oneself. My next-door neighbour doesn’t.
Freddie Mercury’s reflections about supersonic women are making me glad that I’ve never met one: they sound like a bit of a handful – not very easy-going. I’ve never had ambitions in the direction of supersonicness, whatever it might be. What I want is far more achievable, I hope: to be warm, dry, asleep. At the moment, those are the only things I want, the only things I can imagine ever wanting.
All Louise wants is a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately, her neighbour, nicknamed ‘Mr Farenheit’ by Louise and her husband has other ideas. He doesn’t want to sleep, he wants to play his music, and loud. After another night without sleep, after her request to her neighbour to turn his music down goes unheeded, Louise takes things further – she reports him to the council for noise disturbance. She begins by keeping a diary of the music that is played; only it becomes apparent after time that the sounds she hears aren’t the same of those of her husband.
After another night of broken sleep, Louise spies an advert in the paper for a new housing development, Swallowfield that promises to be the solution to her problem; for it is an estate where noise is practically forbidden. Suddenly Louise can only dream of escaping her Victorian city home in
and moving to the countryside. It becomes somewhere for her to take her son, Joseph too, once he is on holiday from school. Cambridge
Seven year old Joseph is a boarder at St Saviours and is part of their choir. Louise misses him desperately and Swallowfield seems to ideal place for them to spend quality time together. The only problem is that once they arrive at their second home, after an idyllic start, Louise starts to hear singing again and this time, it seems more sinister. Whilst I would argue that The Orphan Choir isn’t a horror novel, in my opinion, it is genuinely creepy and builds up to a dramatic climax. I really enjoyed the story, and thought that both the characters and location were really well developed. This is definitely worth a read.
Miss Chapter x