Well it is definitely a good time of year to read a gothic tale.
The Ghost Woods
In the midst of the woods stands a house called Lichen Hall.
This place is shrouded in folklore – old stories of ghosts, of witches, of a child who was not quite a child.
Now the woods are creeping closer, and something has been unleashed.
Pearl Gorham arrives in 1965, one of a string of young women sent to Lichen Hall to give birth. And she soon suspects the proprietors are hiding something.
Then she meets the mysterious mother and young boy who live in the grounds – and together they begin to unpick the secrets of this place.
As the truth comes to the surface and the darkness moves in, Pearl must rethink everything she knew – and risk what she holds most dear.
After reading the previous book by this author at roughly the same time last year, I knew that this would be a good one to delve into as the days get shorter and colder. The Ghost Woods builds a haunting and desolate atmosphere, where there is always a slightly uneasy feeling as you follow the girls’ story.
I really liked Mabel and Pearl, I enjoyed the dual timeline, that we got to hear from both of them and that the timeline converges by the end. Although at the start I did find it difficult to sometimes remember who I was reading about, as there is some cross-over of characters in each POV. I liked that even though the options for both of them in this situation were terrible and they weren’t too far apart in time you could see subtle differences in their outlook. They were both strong characters but that strength showed up in completely different ways and I enjoyed exploring the contrast.
There are a lot of big themes in this book that are explored in a quiet way; motherhood, sexuality (particularly its repression), and women’s equality; I liked that there were some that were more obvious and some that I didn’t wholly cotton on to until the author’s note at the end of the book, which was very insightful. I always admire a writer who can touch on these subjects in a story without them becoming overwhelming so that you can still enjoy the gothic and fantastical and C.J. Cooke manages to do this effortlessly.
I think the one thing that I found a little difficult with this book was the pacing, the very start of the book had my interest straight away and then as the first part continued it waned a little, there would be pockets of something happening that would again pique my interest but then I would find it a bit more of an effort to get through. Luckily the writing is so good and the author has crafted a setting and characters that kept me with the story even in the slower parts. As the book gets closer to the climax it did keep me hooked until the end, but it was a bit of a shame that it didn’t have a building momentum the whole way through.
Each of the books I have read by this author so far have a mystical element to them and I have to say I enjoyed this one because it is a little bit different to anything I have read before, I loved the involvement of the natural world and the hint of the other that adds to the story without taking it over. I don’t want to say too much about it, you’ll have to discover it for yourself, but it is clever and intriguing and it has me excited to see what kind of tale C.J. Cooke will come up with next.
Reviews of other books by C.J. Cooke
The Lighthouse Witches