Help The Witch By Tom Cox – A Review

Publisher: Unbound

Publication Date: 18th October 2018

I’ll level with you. I bloody loved this book. If there was ever a review where I desperately want to just say READ THIS BOOK! (In big shouty capitals no less) it’s this one.

BUT as I’m a book blogger I better put a bit more effort in guys. So here goes….

I was sold this book instantly when I read that it was a must for fans of Daisy Johnson’s short story collection Fen. I have a penchant for the strange, the disconcerting, the insidiously unsettling. All the better if this source of unease comes in an entirely innocuous everyday reality.

This collection of stories are probably best described as modern day folktales. History and the present intersecting to form chilling, spine tingling tales to get your mind whirring and the hairs on the back of your neck standing up.

How perfect does that sound?! I have just finished reading this collection on a cold, dark, grim Sunday afternoon and I can’t think of a more fitting setting.

The title story, Help The Witch, ticked every ghost story box I have. An old cottage in an isolated village with a grim history. TICK. Disembodied voices and strange noises. TICK. objects appearing to move of their own free will. TICK. A creepy landlord with secrets of his own. TICK. A lonely, troubled protagonist who wants to solve a mystery. TICK TICK TICK. JACKPOT. I read this opening story with the book tingles well and truly flowing throughout my body. I was entranced.

I’ve been hearing the female voice – the one I heard when I thought I felt Chloe beside me in bed – again. I don’t understand everything it says. The words are thick, very North Derbyshire, but also more than just very North Derbyshire. A lot of what the voice says is a mixture of the banal and the incomprehensible. It has asked a couple of times if I am ok. It was only today that I replied for the first time to something it said….

This first story is such a great opener. It pulled me right in from the start and if I’m honest I think I could have read an entire novel based just on this one story alone. I love it when isolated villages have a dark past and this one was plague based brilliance.

The next story entitled ‘Listings’ is such a clever idea. A story of a so called cave dwelling bog creature told in the form of property listings and newspaper articles, local interest stories and newspaper ads. I’ve never read anything like it. Such an innovative idea.

Nine Tiny Stories About Houses, is exactly that, nine tiny vignettes around various homes and people’s memories of them. Vanished House, Moor House, Party House. Pictures of the devil on walls, a house with concealed masks of the face of the previous owner and the ghostly Moor House….

We didn’t talk about it until years later. By that time she had left the house. She said it had been creeping her out; her boyfriend particularly didn’t like the ghost of the old woman, dragging her leg along the upstairs corridor at night……

This book takes a different turn in the latter third and the chapter entitled Folk Tales Of The Twenty Third Century had me chuckling to myself in the bath. Particularly the story called ‘Little Goth Twat’. I didn’t envisage this book having so much humour when I first started it but I loved it and the way it took me unawares was so refreshing.

‘It was foretold, and you have arrived exactly on time,’ replied the head Witch, although she was really just the witch who was best at public speaking, rather than the head witch in any official capacity, since the witches tended to think of themselves as a democracy….

From ghostly abodes to creatures of the river. From internet dating to seances. This quirky collection of tales have a piece of my heart.

Tom Cox is an amazing writer who can take you on a strange and mesmerising journey in just a few short pages. From ghost stories with a classic feel to snapshots of a contemporary world this mix of oddities flow perfectly together.

What I love the most about these stories is when the ordinary becomes extraordinary and the final story An Oral History Of Margaret And The Village is the perfect example of this.

I wouldn’t ordinarily read a short story collection all in one sitting.  For me short stories are for dipping in and out of, however, with these I just couldn’t stop reading. I devoured this marvellous collection in one breathtaking sitting.

If you’re in the mood for an eclectic read to make your autumn reading more interesting then I suggest you snap this book up. Not only is the cover beautiful and would make any bookshelf proud, the writing is stunning, the ideas fresh and inventive with the power to wake up your brain and get you thinking.

I believe that this is the authors first dip into fiction. This taster of his work has me hankering for more and I’m so excited by his voice.

A must for any autumn TBR. Simply brilliant.

Thank you so much to Anne Cater and Unbound for the beautiful advanced copy.

See you soon.

Bookish Chat xx

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