Shelf Discover Challenge Report: Down a Dark Hall by Lois Duncan

Fourteen-year-old Kit Gordy never wanted to attend the Blackwood School for Girls, but boarding school is her only option as her mother and stepfather are embarking on a year-long European honeymoon. Still, she never expected the exclusive school (it has only four students) to be a place of evil. As Kit and her classmates adjust to life at their new school, they begin to have odd, almost supernatural experiences that both terrify and intrigue them. When Kit discovers that she and the other Blackwood students have something very unusual in common--all of them have communicated with the dead--she begins to fear what the school's headmistress, the inscrutable Madame Duret, has in mind for them., Suspicious and uneasy about the atmosphere at her new boarding school, fourteen-year-old Kit slowly realizes why she and the other three students at the school were selected.

After last week's intro to Lois Duncan for the Shelf Awareness Challenge, today we are turning to another book of hers that I hadn't read previously. This book was a bit different from the other Duncan books I have read as it gives off a more gothic feel and there are paranormal/supernatural elements in it. While other books may hint at it, usually explanations for things happening can be answered rationally.

This book deals with several topics such as boarding school, parents' new marriages, and dealing with hidden talents that could be yours or could be from another dimension. I was hooked as soon as I started reading the story. To be honest, I didn't know exactly what was going to happen. Proably due modern horror stories, I was expecting more gruesome or sadistic. Instead what we get is a really good stories that involves supernatural elements that take hold of the girls and the adults in charge use them to exploit them. Personally I found this book a tad bit scarier than other Duncan books I've read simply because what is happening to them cannot be controlled or stopped.

Something I found interesting is that Kit does not seem to realize that it would be wrong to start a romantic relationship with her teacher. Yes he's young and handsome and I understand having a crush on her teacher. But it just never seems to enter her mind that a) he's older than her and b) it's illegal? The ending is a bit underwhelming. I felt there was a bunch of buildup and then *poof*. We're not even sure if one of the characters is still alive. Also we don't have any idea what is going to happen to Kit or the other girls or even the teachers after this. The story just ends. So on that bit, I was slightly disappointed. I would have liked a bit more resolution to the story to at least answer some questions.

Overall though, this was a good read and definitely makes me understand why Lois Duncan was so popular in the 70s when this book originally came out. The cover I used here is the cover of the version that I read. It gives off a "The Woman in White" feel to it doesn't it? I think the copy I got from the library must have been one of the original editions as it was slightly falling apart from age. Interesting that these books were published by Little Brown and Company, who to this day still publishes great books!

This novel has NOT been adapted for a movie but I think it would be wonderful to see it flesh out.


  1. What a neat cover - it actually made me think of Jane Eyre (with a creepy HUGE Rochester, LOL), but you're right, it definitely has a Woman in White feel.

  2. I prefer the stories without the gruesome details, so this sounds good to me. Have you seen the Shelf Discovery mini-challenge I'm hosting this month? It's all about Judy Blume.

  3. I grew up in the 70s and 80s and never read a Lois Duncan book. This one sounds a little strange to me, but I admit I'm curious now!


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