Monday, 18 November 2019

Wakenhyrst - Michelle Paver

I’ve wanted to read this for the longest time so when I saw it on the library shelf, a spanking brand new paperback, I grabbed it quick and I did a silly, happy dance which only narrowly avoided the library staff phoning for assistance!

I read Thin Air, some years ago now it seems, and was impressed with it. I was also extremely happy to find that a quote from my review was used on Redhammer’s website! Here’s a link to that review for those who might be interested,

Paver has a talent for the atmospheric and she displays this to remarkable effect in Wakenhyrst. The word ‘gothic’ seems bandied about nowadays but not all stories accredited with that moniker truly seem to embody those aspects that really make a story ‘gothic’. Paver does. This is gothically gothic ! It is consummate story telling with its themes of sorcery, mysticism and superstition. Witches and devils, gargoyles and murder, the reader is trapped within the spell of the story desperate to know, to discover what really happened between Maud Stearn and her father, Edmund Stearn. The chilling, brooding mood is sustained to the very last full stop.

In true story telling tradition a journalist seeks out Maud, in the mid nineteen sixties, and her story is divulged and forms the meat of the book. The reader is sent hurtling back to a pre WWI English village, Wakenhyrst where the Stearns live in their house, Wake’s End. The relationship and dynamic between Maud and her father is tense, taut, you get the feeling that it could snap at any moment. Maud is coldly trapped within her gender and her father is unable to see her as she truly is. He only sees the stereotype of women of that era, and someone who he can put to good use. I do not wish to offer any spoilers except that sometimes I feel like I’m the last person to get around to reading this, so would it really matter? Nope, I won’t be persuaded other than to say that Edmund Stearn is an archetypal gothic character almost, a manic, deluded, controlling obsessive. A monster?!

For me one of the main characters in the book is devoid of all human characteristics; it is the swirling, misty Fen that seems to envelop Wake’s End, the big house occupied by the Stearns. Coupled with a sense of ‘Fennish’ folklore and murmurings of starlings,  it was as if everything and everyone were trapped within a deep claustraphobic prison. 

There’s plenty of scary stuff to keep you up at night but I defy you to put the book down! It is a treat to read a book such as this. The experience is one with that indefinable sense of being treated to something so satisfying and complete, so substantial. If you haven’t read it,read it,if you have,why,read it again!

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