Book Review: Wakenhyrst by Michelle Paver

Name: Wakenhyrst
Michelle Paver
Number of Pages:
368 (ebook)
April 4th 2019 by Head of Zeus
Genre:  Historical, Gothic


“Something has been let loose…”
In Edwardian Suffolk, a manor house stands alone in a lost corner of the Fens: a glinting wilderness of water whose whispering reeds guard ancient secrets. Maud is a lonely child growing up without a mother, ruled by her repressive father.
When he finds a painted medieval devil in a graveyard, unhallowed forces are awakened.
Maud’s battle has begun. She must survive a world haunted by witchcraft, the age-old legends of her beloved fen – and the even more nightmarish demons of her father’s past.
Spanning five centuries, Wakenhyrst is a darkly gothic thriller about murderous obsession and one girl’s longing to fly free by the bestselling author of Dark Matter and Thin Air. Wakenhyrst is an outstanding new piece of story-telling, a tale of mystery and imagination laced with terror. It is a masterwork in the modern gothic tradition that ranges from Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker to Neil Gaiman and Sarah Perry.

My Rating:

My Thoughts:

Wakenhyrst is an Edwardian era gothic tale of mystery, folklore, secrets, tragedy and a young woman growing up amidst all this.
It starts out setting the scene wonderfully through an article and some letters; they’re mysterious and full of the horrors that occurred when the troubled Dr Stearne ran from his house and committed murder, a crime that saw him imprisoned for the rest of his life, during which time he dedicated himself to creating a series of surreal paintings. The eerie isolated house, the fens that surround it, the scary paintings, the connection to another painting from years gone by, all this made me want to read on.

The narrative goes back many years and settles into the story of Maud, who grows up witnessing her mother’s repetitive cycle of pregnancy, miscarriage and stillbirth, which eventually results in tragedy.
Maud becomes enchanted with a rescued magpie, Chatterpie, who becomes almost like a friend to her for a time.
On her wanderings Maud encounters Jubal Rede, who apparently  lives out in the fens and may know something about her father’s past, and she becomes friendly with the young under-gardener, Clem Walker.
Alongside these everyday events and at the centre of Wake’s End is Edmund Stearne, Maud’s father, who becomes increasingly preoccupied with interpreting The Book of Alice Pyett, whilst becoming ever more disturbed by the house and the grounds and whatever may be lurking outside.

I love the atmosphere of the book – the house, which almost becomes a character itself, shrouded in ivy and surrounded by the countryside, the wilderness, the wildness and the suggestion that there may be something out there in the wilds of the fens. The superstitions of the locals contrast with the firm beliefs of Maud’s father, whilst Maud herself loves the natural surroundings and the tales of local folklore.

Maud is clever and curious and forced to see certain truths after finding and reading her father’s notebook, which holds many revelations and the key to the tragic events that transpire. The use of the notebook is a direct view into the thoughts of Edmund Stearne, although Maud’s secret and continual reading of these private, blunt writings is sometimes awkward and you can see why it fuels her hate and hurt. She goes from wanting to help her father in his work, believing that he values her company and thoughts, to finding out that his opinions on women in general and Maud in particular are far from what she imagined. Worse still, when she attempts to use the notebook to gain help as things start to take a dangerous turn, it ends in failure.

Wakenhyrst has mystery, drama, tragedy, an element of eeriness, a great central character in Maud, and a range of interesting supporting characters. I enjoyed discovering the tale of Wake’s End and all that happened there so many years ago. An ideal read for a dark autumn night for anyone who enjoys the gothic or historical in their reading.

16 thoughts on “Book Review: Wakenhyrst by Michelle Paver

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