Rebecca Lloyd's The Bellboy was published by Zagava in 2018.
Information about Rebecca Lloyd:
Winning the 2008 Bristol Short Story Prize for her story 'The River', Rebecca Lloyd, a writer and editor from Bristol, UK, was shortlisted in the 2010 Dundee International Book Prize and was a semi-finalist in the Hudson Prize for a short story collection in the same year. Her novel Halfling was published by Walker Books in 2011, and in the following year she was co-editor with Indira Chandrasekhar, of Pangea, an Anthology of Stories from Around the Globe, with Thames River Press. In 2014, her short story collection Whelp and Other Stories was shortlisted in the Paul Bowles Award for Short Fiction, and her collection The View From Endless Street was published by WiDo Publishing.
Click here to visit her official website.
Information about The Bellboy:
In 1932, young Walter Matthews finds life in Battersea with his sneering father and simpering mother close to unbearable. His only solace is his passion for all things Egyptian and his adoration for the manly figure of Howard Carter, whose splendid discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb is constantly in the news. When he starts work as a bellboy in the Maydor Superior Hotel in Central London, Walter’s life brightens, and when he befriends Lady Fergus Mantel-Jefferson, a recluse living on the top floor of the hotel, his life positively blossoms, for by the most wonderful good fortune, Lady F was friends with Mr. Carter in Egypt, and Walter is dizzy with excitement at the chance of knowing more about his hero’s life. Unable to tolerate his father any longer, Walter persuades Lady F to house him in her suite while he looks for a room, which he eventually finds. But, on the morning he tells the old lady his news while admiring an alabaster statuette once belonging to Howard Carter, his world changes abruptly and all that glittered before him, his bright future, his hopes and plans, disappear before his very eyes.
REVIEW: THE BELLBOY BY REBECCA LLOYD
Rebecca Lloyd's The Bellboy is a beautifully written and compelling piece of harrowing literary horror fiction. Readers who love deep and gradually unfolding horror stories will immensely enjoy this novella and will be captivated by it.
Before I write anything about the contents of this novella, I'll say a few words about Rebecca Lloyd, because it's possible that she may be a bit unknown author to many readers. Rebecca Lloyd is the author of such books as Mercy and Other Stories, Jack Werrett The Flood Man, Oothangbart: A Subversive Fable for Adults and Bears and Seven Strange Stories. Mercy and Other Stories was a World Fantasy Award nominee in 2015.
I consider The Bellboy to be a gem of a novella that should be seeked out by horror fiction aficiniados and connoisseurs, because the story is something different. Once you begin to read this novella, you won't be able turn your eyes from its pages, because the story pulls you in and you'll find yourself incapable of resisting the temptation to find out what happens to the protagonist.
The Bellboy tells about a young man, Walter Matthews, who has found a job as a bellboy at the Maydor Superior Hotel in Central London. Because Walter has been fed up with living in Battersea, he is excited about the opportunity to work at the hotel. Soon, he finds himself looking after Lady Fergus-Mantel-Jefferson, Lady F., who is an old recluse living on the top floor of the hotel. He befriends the old lady and finds out that she has met his hero, the Egyptologist Howard Carter who discovered Tutankhamun's tomb. As he gets to know the old lady, he persuades her to house him in her suite for a few weeks while he looks for a room. When he finds a room and tells about it to Lady F. while admiring an alabaster statuette that once belonged to Howard Carter, his world changes in abrupt way and all of his hopes and plans are crushed...
This gracefully unfolding story is fascinating, immersive and touching yet unsettling in the best possible way. The quiet and underlying viciousness that can be found beneath the surface creates a thrilling sense of strangeness, which is at its peak during the terrifying climax of the story.
When I began to read this story, I was immediately taken by the characterisation and the author's way of emphasising the foreboding atmosphere by writing about how Walter gradually becomes drawn towards Lady F. despite knowing only little about her.
The characterisation is excellent and impressive. The author takes her time to introduce Walter Matthews to her readers by telling about his life, feelings and hopes. She gives her readers an intimate and intense look at Walter's inner turmoil and lets them get to know everything about Walter.
Walter Matthews is a well-created and realistic protagonist. His life is unbearable in Battersea and he often fantasises about the Battersea Power Station exploding and killing certain people, but not his mother. His relationship with his father is distant and troubled - his father is awful and mean to his mother and he can't stand him and his behaviour. The only thing that brings him pleasure is his passion for Egyptology and all things Egyptian. He is especially interested in Howard Carter and knows many things about him.
Lady Fergus-Mantel-Jefferson, Lady F., is an old woman who has lived for many years on the top floor of the hotel. She is an interesting person, because she's a recluse who has not come out her room for ages and lets the bellboys take care of her needs. Those who work at the hotel think of her as a bit strange and mad.
The friendship between Walter and Lady F. is handled well. I enjoyed reading about how their friendship developed and how much Walter enjoyed hearing about what Lady F. told him about Howard Carter and her twin sister.
In this novella, Rebecca Lloyd paints a believable vision of what life could have been like in the 1930s. She pays attention to many things, and she writes atmospherically about the hotel, its staff and people who stay there. Life at the Maydor Superior Hotel has a dark and secret side to it that is revealed to the readers in tiny bits and pieces throughout the story. What goes on in the hotel in the Fitzgerald Room and what kind of life some of the people live is steeped in shameless debauchery and discreet secrecy.
One of the reasons why this novella is excellent can be credited to the author's beautiful literary prose. Her prose is elegant, evocative and nuanced. She effortlessly infuses her story with a haunting atmosphere and creates an uncanny feeling of something not being quite right.
The Bellboy is slow-burning horror goodness from start to finish and the atmosphere intensifies towards the end as the author reveals what kind of fate awaits Walter. It showcases that the most horrifying things can happen when you least expect them.
The ending of this novella is stunningly effective, because what happens comes as a total surprise and the events are genuinely unsettling. I can guarantee that the harrowing ending will cling to your mind, because Walter has made plans and has hopes, but something happens to him and all of his hopes and plans are taken from him in an instant.
I can recommend this novella to readers who are familiar with stories written by Michael Wehunt, Livia Llewellyn, R.B. Russell and Joel Lane. If you've enjoyed what these authors have written, you'll love Rebecca Lloyd's story.
If you love beautifully written horror fiction and appreciate what pleasures literary horror fiction can offer to readers, you should seek out Rebecca Lloyd's The Bellboy immediately, because it's something unique. I can honestly say that this novella is one of the best literary horror novellas I've ever had the pleasure of reading, because it's simultaneously beautiful and harrowing.