Cellar by Minette Walters

Jan 17, 2016

BasementCellar by Minette Walters begins as a story of enslavement in modern day London that tugs at the heartstrings, then accelerates into a psychological thriller and becomes downright creepy.

It’s claustrophobic, taking place primarily within the home of the main characters who hate, detest, and demean one another, yet cannot stop, cannot walk away. The psychology of attachment and the capacity to love are complex, contrary, and oppressive—like English ivy that climbs a tree, attaching its suction cup-like roots. The ivy itself does not kill the tree but the consequences of its growing (stealing nutrients, water, and sunlight) make the tree weaker and more susceptible to disease. Regarding the nuclear family of Ebuka, Yetunde, Olubayo, and Abiola Songoli, beliefs are rigid and warped, and insight is nil. For Muna, the enslaved, the isolation in which she is held captive reflects the isolation in which the Songoli family lives within British society. But Muna adapts, learns, and perfects patience.

One act of greed and need creates the bubble of a twisted and depraved home that is burst when one of the Songoli sons goes missing. The consequence? A “Muna” no one ever could have imagined.

As the pace of the book is quick, the action is doubly jarring; the reader has no time to come up for air, which puts us more in the Songoli than Muna camp—we are not masters of our own fate, yet we believe just the opposite. It’s disarming for the reader, appropriately so.

This is not a perfect book, but it’s a short read and it is fascinating for those who enjoy psychology, the oddity of human behavior, a dose of “disturbing,” and don’t need an ending tied up with a pretty bow. For these folks, Cellar may be just the read on a cold, stormy night.






Photo, top right, cellar stairs by Gregory L. O’Laughlin [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.



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