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Reviewed by C.R. Hurst for Readers' Favorite
The Digital Wallpaper by Anna Maeve is a modern reimagining of the classic short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman called The Yellow Wallpaper, first published in 1892. Like the original story, Maeve’s story offers a riveting look at a woman whose unstable mental health is made more so by her isolation, in this case, in a newly purchased home equipped with every gadget that modern convenience can provide. This smart house becomes the prison of The Digital Wallpaper’s Emily who, like Gilman’s heroine, battles paranoia and the fear that the wallpaper is spying on her every move. And like the original, this modern retelling forces the reader to decide whether the narrator is simply confused or whether she is indeed stark raving mad.
Anna Maeve captures the original story’s pacing and anxiety by limiting the perspective to Emily’s point of view, making her an especially sympathetic character. In the opening, she seems a rather ordinary, insecure young woman who rapidly becomes increasingly disturbed. I could not help but feel disturbed by her fear and isolation. The only other character in the story, her husband, offers her no help. Whenever she tries to talk to him about her fears, he is so dismissive that I shared Emily’s pain at his reaction. This ability to create empathy in a reader is the hallmark of a good writer, especially one who writes fiction with psychological themes. The rising specter of digital surveillance makes this story especially relevant to a modern reader and makes me wonder whether we all should fear our own digital wallpapers.