Publication Date: 9th August 2018
The first chapter of this book both horrified me and hooked me in. Even just the first sentence really had me thinking ‘whaaat?!’
This author really knows how to suck you in!
The story centres around Jens Horder and his wife Maria and his young daughter Liv. They live on a remote part of an island known as The Head. Jens is a skilled carpenter, taught by his now dead father, and specialises in making beautiful coffins.
Jens was extremely close with his father and they had a very strong bond. When his father dies and his brother leaves The Head, Jens is left with his mother and becomes increasingly introverted and isolated until his mother takes help around the house in the form of Maria.
Maria becomes Jens wife and they have twins Liv and Karl. When tragedy strikes Jens feels even more cast adrift and alone, fearful of danger and losing yet more of the people he loves.
This fear manifests itself in the most unhealthiest of ways. Jens cuts his family off from the people on the mainland. He isolates them and becomes an extreme hoarder. He fills their house and surrounding land and buildings with belongings he cannot bear to get rid of just incase he should need them in the future. Surviving by stealing from their neighbours and stockpiling food and items whether they are useful or not.
When something happens to threaten the safety and protection of Liv, Jens takes drastic steps to conceal her from the world so that she can never be taken away from him.
During this time and as a response to tragic events, Maria turns to food for comfort and slowly eats herself bigger and bigger until she can no longer leave the bedroom. She lives for her visits from Liv who comes to read books to her and bring her food and water. Incarcerated in her bed, Maria cannot see the lengths which Jens is going to to protect his family in his own strange way. She cannot see the extent of the hoarding problems and the state of the rotting, neglected house she has become imprisoned in.
Told mostly from the perspective of Liv, interspersed with letters written by her mother this book is horrifying but so so sad. Liv sees things which no child should ever see and copes with things no child should e we be expected to cope with. She eats witness to her fathers dramatically deteriorating mental health and her mothers declining physical health. She does not have any semblance of what could be considered a normal childhood and yet she is tenacious and resilient and extraordinarily brave.
Her story is a heartbreaking one, as is Jens story. He undoubtedly does things which are beyond the realms of normality and essentially criminal but I can totally understand the root of his reasoning.
This book, despite its shocking content is beautifully written. The depictions of the landscapes are very evocative and descriptive. The house itself is described in all its horrific shocking detail. The sheer filth and dangerous neglect of the property, you can almost feel like you are there trapped inside. So claustrophobic and atmospheric.
The ending of this story actually left me a little bit breathless. One of those where you close the book and immediately need to talk to someone, anyone about what on Earth you have just read.
Honestly this book will definitely be in my top 5 books of the year. Completely gripping, utterly compelling.
I thoroughly recommend it. Thank you to Alison Barrow and Doubleday for the proof.
See you soon
Bookish Chat. Xxx