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Book Review

Wakenhyrst Review

April 4, 2019

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Wakenhyrst Review

Michelle Paver is perhaps best known for her children’s series Chronicles Of Ancient Darkness, but has also written bestselling adult’s novels Dark Matter and Thin Air. In this new novel she once again blends a historical tale with an eerie ghost story. Wakenhyrst is set in an eponymous Suffolk village in the early 20th century, and brilliantly evokes the atmosphere of the fens.

In 1966, a journalist arrives in Wakenhyrst to interview Maud Sterne, now in her 60s. Back in 1913, her father Edmund Stearne was arrested for murder and sent to Broadmoor, seemingly insane. Since then, Maud has lived alone in her isolated house Wake’s End in the Suffolk fens, whilst her father lived out the rest of his days in a secure prison, creating bizarre and disturbing paintings. But some suspect that her father may have been innocent, and that witchcraft was involved. Now Maud is ready to sell her story to a interested historian, and explain what really happened all those years ago.

Things take a darker turn when Edmund unearths a ‘doom’ in local area

In the early 20th century, Maud lives in Wake’s End with her deeply religious but misogynistic father Edmund, her beloved Belgian mother, and her little brother Richard. Her father is a historian who is intrigued by the writings of local medieval mystic Alice Pyett, and sets out to discover her works and translate and translate them. Meanwhile, Maman suffers constantly from ‘grumblings’ – interminable pregnancies which usually result in miscarriage or stillbirth – and tragedy soon strikes.

Things take a darker turn when Edmund unearths a ‘doom’ in local area – a medieval fresco which depicts the horrors of hell. He has a dark secret in his past, and when strange things start to occur he fears that he may be cursed. Is there something otherworldly in the nearby fen, or is his paranoia beginning to tip into insanity? Maud begins to realise just how dangerous her father can be, in a narrative which is punctuated by excerpts from Edmund’s diaries and passages from the works of Alice Pyett (which were inspired by the words of real medieval mystic Margery Kempe). A superb combination of a murder mystery, a historical novel and a ghost story, Wakenhyrst is an enthralling portrait of a time and place where women had few rights and fewer options in life.

Written by Ruth, Marketing 

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