Book Review: Under the Whispering Door by T. J. Klune

Good morning folks! Today I’ve got a book review to post, for T. J. Klune’s Under the Whispering Door.

This is the first book I’ve read by the author. I’d seen a bit of buzz around his previous release, The House in the Cerulean Sea so decided to pick this up when I saw it on Netgalley.

The Book:

Welcome to Charon’s Crossing.
The tea is hot, the scones are fresh and the dead are just passing through.

When a reaper comes to collect Wallace from his own sparsely-attended funeral, Wallace is outraged. But he begins to suspect she’s right, and he is in fact dead. Then when Hugo, owner of a most peculiar tea shop, promises to help him cross over, Wallace reluctantly accepts the truth.

Yet even in death, he refuses to abandon his life – even though Wallace spent all of it working, correcting colleagues and hectoring employees. He’d had no time for frivolities like fun and friends. But as Wallace drinks tea with Hugo and talks to his customers, he wonders if he was missing something.

The feeling grows as he shares jokes with the resident ghost, manifests embarrassing footwear and notices the stars. So when he’s given one week to pass through the door to the other side, Wallace sets about living a lifetime in just seven days.

My Review:

This book is classed as Fantasy, and has in fact been nominated in the Fantasy category of the Goodreads Choice Awards just this week.

But it feels like a very specific, very different sort of fantasy. Despite the difficult and emotional subject matter, this feels almost cosy. It’s quite unlike anything I’ve read for a while.

I think the cosy feeling comes down to the book’s setting, Charon’s Crossing tea rooms. Its location feels remote, set apart from the real world in more ways than one, and I can just imagine enjoying a peaceful few hours there with a hot drink and a pastry. I’ve been doing a lot of bedtime guided meditations to help me sleep recently and Charon’s Crossing felt very much like the type of place that you would be whisked away to in one of those to wind down.

The main character, Wallace, is quite despicable to begin with. He’s work obsessed with no time for people or connections. This soon changes once he’s died from a heart attack on the floor of his office and is collected by Mei. Acting as his reaper, she whisks him off to see Hugo, the ferryman, who will guide him to the next stage.

The whole cast is wonderful; Wallace, Nelson, Mei and even Apollo. The others bring about a change in Wallace as he comes to realise what he’s missed out on.

The interpretation in this book of what happens when you die is really interesting. Everyone has their role, Mei the reaper, Hugo the ferryman, even the mysterious Manager. Its something different, which is nice to see. There were a few moments where it felt like the “rules” that had been built up in the book were bent or new ones invented for the sake of the plot, but I was invested in the story and it didn’t really bother me.

There are some absolutely heart breaking moments in the book, I found Nancy’s story particularly sad, but there is also a lot of humour. A scene where an internet “psychic” visits the tea rooms and Nelson and Wallace mess with her really made me chuckle!

I’d really like this book to do well. It is a difficult subject matter and I note that the author found it hard to write as it made him face some personal grief. It is a hopeful, bittersweet book though. Matt Haig has been very successful recently in writing books which explore dealing with emotions and I think this would really be a good read for fans of his.

5 thoughts on “Book Review: Under the Whispering Door by T. J. Klune

      1. Anytime! I would love to get my hands on either of them. I’ve heard only good things about the author and I’m impatient to find out for myself!
        Best of luck and happy reading!


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