Publication Date: 15th May 2019
Where do I start?
If you don’t relish the idea of having the hairs on the back of your neck stand up when you’re reading in bed at night….
If you don’t want to be slightly disconcerted about looking into the mirror…
If you jump at the slightest noise…..
Or have an aversion to disembodied voices…
Toy’s turning up in places where they really shouldn’t be…
Then this book probably isn’t for you…. BUT you should still read it you wimp! (said with love).
This book was ABSOLUTELY for me! I love a dark, ghostly, terrifying read. I love a rambling old house with a creepy attic and creaky doors. I love a family mystery, an unreliable narrator, a feeling of distinct unease, tales told and added to over the decades……Haverscroft has all these things and much much more in absolute spades!
So what the blazes is it all about Mand?..
Kate and her husband Mark have just moved out of London to Haverscroft, a large rambling property in need of a little work, with their 9 year old twins Sophie and Tom. Straight from the off we know that something has happened in Kate’s recent past to prompt a breakdown of sorts which she appears to be recovering from, with the help of medication and her own coping mechanisms of deep breathing and counting exercises.
Kate is not happy about the move to Haverscroft but has acquiesced to her husbands wishes as she feels she owes him, (that’s all I’ll say about that!). However she is determined (at least initially) to make things work not only at Haverscroft but in her marriage aswell.
Soon after moving in things begin to happen in the house which unnerve Kate and the two children. With Mark working away in London during the week, Kate is left feeling isolated and unnerved. She begins to dig a little deeper into the history of the house to assuage her perturbed feelings. She discovers that Mrs Haverscroft has sold them the house with certain conditions and caveats laid down by her solicitor. Conditions which it appears Mark was aware of and Kate was not.
But just what can Kate uncover about the dark and varied history of Haverscroft? Why is the attic room a shrine to the previous family’s children? Why are her own children so scared of being alone in their bedrooms? Why does the spare bedroom door seem to open and close of its own volition, despite being locked?…….and most importantly who can Kate trust to tell her the truth when she struggles trusting herself?
Plot wise I don’t want to give any more away than this! I think Haverscroft is a story to be discovered and experienced. So now I’ll just rhapsodize about how much I enjoyed it!
This book for me is an example of a perfect modern ghost story. What I love the most about a ghost story is perfect pacing. A slow build of tension and small events which eventually culminate into a dramatic ending. Haverscroft certainly has a dramatic ending! I almost wanted to read through my fingers! But to go back to my original point, I enjoy being drip fed the spooky little details. I love it when odd events are not blatant or veer off into the ridiculous. I like the insidious creeping feeling of strange happenings that could perhaps be explained away……..the breeze slamming a door, the wind whilstling down the chimney making that noise….a trick of the light making that ghostly shadow……etc
What adds to this feeling in Haverscroft is the fact that Kate could be considered an unreliable narrator. She’s recently experienced a mental breakdown, she’s feeling lonely and isolated, she has panic episodes and sees things she cannot explain. At times she doubts herself and what she has seen or heard which in turn makes the reader dubious.
The flip side to this is the sheer frustration Kate feels when she is utterly convinced that there is a dark malevolent force at play in the house and Mark does not even entertain the idea. Kate is extremely worried for the safety of the children and her anxieties fall on deaf ears and even worse, her capabilities as a mother come into question. The claustrophobic atmosphere is ramped up by Kate’s struggles to get her husband to believe her, back her and keep their children safe.
There are some very interesting peripheral characters, not least Mrs Havers herself. A stubborn, taciturn woman with deep secrets hidden within her. We also have the housekeeper Mrs Cooper (every house like Haverscroft needs a housekeeper right?!) who becomes a confidante and companion to Kate, she’s uncomfortable in the house and knows some of the history it holds…
There are some genuine spine chilling moments in this book which made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, which is of course testimony to some great writing skills! There is a particular scene involving a mirror which had me steadfastly refusing to look into my vintage dressing table mirror for a good few hours I can tell you!
Sally Harris is certainly an author I will be looking out for in the future. I have a feeling that she has an innate talent for the deliciously creepy. I just know that I will read any future books of hers without question. It takes a particular skill to compose such a spine chilling tale and Sally Harris has this skill in-built.
If you’re in the market for a traditional haunted house mystery to have you listening just that little bit more closely to the creaking of your house at night……do yourself a favour and buy yourself a copy of Haverscroft. You won’t regret it.
Well you might…..when you can’t sleep!
Thoroughly recommended and huge thanks to Emma Dowson and Salt for my review copy.
See you all soon.
Amanda – Bookish Chat xx