The Unquiet House: A chilling tale of gripping suspense Paperback – 10 Apr 2014
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Subtle, rich, and deeply evocative. (Teleread.com)
'All of Littlewood's novels have been good, but this is my favourite' Black Static. (Black Static)
'A haunted house novel by a writer of exceptional skill ... that stands alongside the greats of the genre: fertile ground worked by the likes of Shirley Jackson, Richard Matheson, Stephen King, against whose seminal works Alison Littlewood can hold her head high ... one of the most exceptional horror authors of the current generation' Reader Dad. (Reader Dad)
'Perfect Halloween and Christmas evening reading, though why wait till then? The summer months may be coming, but there'll be a chill in the air once you start turning the pages. It certainly makes you wonder what will be next from this author, and makes you look forward to it all the more. 9/10' Sci-Fi Bulletin. (Sci-Fi Bulletin)
'The author excels herself here. What Littlewood did with cults and motherhood in her debut, and fairy tales in the darkly fantastic crime fiction which followed it, she pulls off again, incredibly, in this best in class account of a haunted house' The Speculative Scotsman. (Speculative Scotsman)
'This third novel will set Alison Littlewood apart on her own. It's the type of book that elevates a writer into their own sphere' The Horrifically Horrifying Horror Blog. (Horrifying Horror Blog)
'An extremely well written and engaging spooky tale' The Horror Hothouse. (Horror Hothouse)
Alison Littlewood has a real talent for building atmosphere, loaded with the promise of things to come (The Guardian)
What is lurking in the corners of Mire House? Chilling atmospheric, this British Fantasy Award nominated work 'reads like a timeless classic of the genre' (Guardian) and is perfect for fans of Stephen King.See all Product description
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October 2015 (5)
Spooky and unsettling
The first stirrings in the air that not all is as it seems is right at the outset of this haunted house tale. It’s the present day and Emma has inherited an old house in the Yorkshire countryside, quite inexplicably she feels, from a distant elderly relative who she never knew. Emma is unhappy. Still recovering from the double bereavement of her parents, this is understandable, but a deep-rooted melancholy seems to emanate from her. She has few, if any, friends and appears a very lonely creature. Rich pickings for ghosts and hauntings, then. With the initial intention of putting the house straight on the market, she is drawn in and captivated by Mire House and determines to make it her own. An opportunity for a new beginning. Very quickly, strange things happen. Charlie, the grandson of the deceased owner, appears. He doesn’t want the house, he says, but he does hope to get to know Emma better as she is his nearest relative, and helps her with redecorating the house. Then Emma sees the ghost of an old man in the middle of the night. Could he be looking for the ancient suit that is hanging in the wardrobe in her room that she threw out? After a particularly terrifying experience when Emma finds herself locked in her wardrobe, Charlie seems a source of strength and support, but can she be sure that he isn’t trying to scare her away?
The structure of the book is unusual in that the present day story of Emma and her inheritance of the property wraps around two related stories from 1973 and 1939. These are almost stand-alone elements, and have massive significance to the history of the property, Emma’s family and the hauntings. In 1973, Frank Watts and his mates are being typical naughty boys, mercilessly teasing the old man who lives in Mire House. That is, until Frank pays him a call after developing a conscience and they become almost friends. Frank learns more about other people and develops scruples and character. This segment deals with love, loss, bullying, character development, integrity and understanding each other’s differences, and the ending is heartbreaking in its poignancy.
At the outbreak of the Second World War, 16 year old Aggie is poised to take on a job at the newly built Mire House. Dreaming of a different future away from the farm, she is excited about working for Mrs Hollingworth and moving on in the world – until the war puts paid to more than her career dreams.
Back in 2013 we learn the link between the different time periods, the history of the house, the breathtaking reason Emma has been left the property and how she comes to terms with her life and the people in it.
Alison Littlewood is excellent at creating atmosphere, fear and foreboding by building up the uneasiness gradually so that it permeates the story and leads to a sense of inevitability. The story has shades of The Woman In Black although is not strictly derivative. There are some truly shocking moments, some cute and funny moments, and deeply tragic moments. Whilst feeling sorry for the ghost at the heart of the story, sympathy wears thin when innocents are targeted; this is one of my main gripes with Susan Hill’s ghostly characters. Maybe this ghost believes in the sins of the fathers being visited on the next generation? What I really liked about this book is that it managed to bring a fresh perspective to the oft-used haunted house story whilst offering something different.
And now I think I love Mire House, too.
For Alison Littlewood's new(ish) novel is a haunted house novel to rank with all the above; where the house is not just a home for spooky beings, but a corruption of all a house should actually be; an archetypal 'bad place'; a mirror of its inhabitant's hopes and fears; a trap.
The Unquiet House is told in four interlocking sections, starting in the present day and then working back to the 1973, then to 1939, before finally coming back to 2013 - it almost reads like three self-contained novellas about a different generation's experiences at Mire House. But the historical parts of the novel provide a rich and plausible justification for the terrors in the present, and at the end Mire House is left still standing, still unquiet (still "not sane" as Shirley Jackson would no doubt have it) and still occupied by... something. And there's a strong suggestion that all is not over, and that another generation is about to be trapped and consumed by the horrors of the past.
I love haunted houses, me.