‘The Woman in the Woods’ – Lisa Hall
When Allie moves to a quaint old cottage with her husband, it’s their dream home. Nestled in the village of Pluckley, it seems a perfect haven in which to raise their two children. But Pluckley has a reputation. It’s known as England’s most haunted village. And not long after the birth of their new son, Allie begins to notice strange things…
What’s the flash of white she sees moving quickly through the woods to the back of their house? And what’s the strange scratching noise from the chimney?
As Allie discovers more about the history of their new home, she uncovers a story of witchcraft and superstition, which casts a long shadow into the present day. And not everything is as it seems. Her family might well be in danger, but it’s a danger none of them could have foreseen…
Approaching Halloween, this is the perfect read to get you in the mood. It is chilling, it is atmospheric and will have you questioning Allie and her actions throughout.
Moving into the spookiest village in Britain, I think Allie knows, deep down, that there are going to be some ghostly tales that she learns about. What she wasn’t anticipating was that these legends even feature her own house. With this knowledge comes fear and superstition as Allie becomes increasingly convinced that she is being haunted by a woman who used to live in the house hundreds of years ago. However, Allie’s husband and close friend are dismissive of her claims, excusing her delusions for new-baby stresses.
This book covers a range of topical issues, including mental health and the stresses of motherhood. I did forget the name of Allie’s baby as he is so often referred to as ‘baby’; I think the writer could have used his name a bit more to make it more personal and for her relationship with her son to be more convincing. Exasperated for Allie when no one seems to believe her about seeing something in the woods behind their house, Hall also explores the sensitive issue of mental health and how precarious it is. Whilst I was frustrated and sympathetic that everyone around her is so dismissive, I do think Hall uses this topic rather carefully, especially when combined with postpartum feelings.
For sure, this book is incredibly atmospheric, particularly when Allie experiences such ghostly occurrences around the house. The chilling landing, the reflections in the mirror, voices, scratchings in the chimney… this book has the ingredients for a spine-tingling, atmospheric read. The isolation that Allie feels as a new mum is symbolised by the woods that seem to engulf her back garden. Therefore, I was convinced that believing she can see a figure in the trees became a metaphor for Allie desiring to reach out and her opinions being accepted. She is determined she is not ‘crazy’, but not even her husband seems to trust her. How can she change his opinion?
The theme of witchcraft was fascinating and I enjoyed reading the history of Allie’s house. Furthermore, when trinkets are discovered in the house, it added to the idea of spells and charms. I loved reading about the legends of Pluckley but think the writer could have developed this slightly further and allowed more magic and witchcraft to take more prominence in the story.
Quickly captured by this story, I found I could not put it down. Obsessed with Allie’s story, I was so curious to discover what the explanations would be behind her many accusations. In truth, I was surprised by the ending and think it could have been elaborated further, making significant connections to the history of the house but, it seemed to satisfy the overall atmosphere of the novel. At the same time, I thought Allie’s treatment at the end was quite sad because it justified how other characters behaved towards her in the novel. I think I was desiring more strength from Allie after all she had experienced.
This was an immersive read with a haunting setting, a haunted house and a woman haunted by what many consider as a figment of her imagination… or is it?
With thanks to HQ Digital and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.