by Andrew Michael Hurley
The worst thing possible has happened. Richard and Juliette Willoughby’s son, Ewan, has died suddenly at the age of five. Starve Acre, their house by the moors, was to be full of life, but is now a haunted place.
Juliette, convinced Ewan still lives there in some form, seeks the help of the Beacons, a seemingly benevolent group of occultists. Richard, to try and keep the boy out of his mind, has turned his attention to the field opposite the house, where he patiently digs the barren dirt in search of a legendary oak tree.
Starve Acre is a devastating new novel by the author of the prize-winning bestseller The Loney. It is a novel about the way in which grief splits the world in two and how, in searching for hope, we can so easily unearth horror.
“Starve Acre” is a slightly spooky folk horror story.
Richard and Juliette Willoughby have moved to “Starve Acre”, a family home in the Yorkshire Dales, to give their son Ewan the opportunity to explore life outside of the city.
“He’d been right, too, about Ewan needing space to play. Over in the field, the boy was immersed in his own world as he rode to and from the fringes of the wood gathering twigs and yellow leaves to act as flags for his battlements.”
Local residents in the area tell folklore stories about this place and the surrounding fields, including that of the legendary Styhwaite Oak, an old tree that used to stand on the land and once used for hangings.
This story was haunting and several chapters gave me goosebumps. Horror isn’t a genre I’ve read a lot of, but this was the perfect read in the lead up to Halloween and the winter months.
As well as the mysterious folklore tales, this book also explores themes of loss, grief and mental health and the Willoughby’s story is a devastating one, no matter how disturbing it may be at times.
The on thing I’d criticize was the lack of description and I think because of this I found it quite difficult to place this book in time and I still can’t tell you when it is set. At some points it felt very historical and then in others a lot more modern. I felt that this did take away from the story a little as my imagination was all over the place and picturing the house and characters became quite tricky. I couldn’t imagine what Juliette was wearing or what the decor of the room might have been like so I didn’t connect with any of the characters as much as I would have liked.
And the ending… so many questions…
Thank you to Readers First for sending me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.