- Alison Littlewood.
- 304 pages.
- Ghost / Horror / Fiction.
- My Rating: Hell Yeah Book Review.
Leah thought Maitland Farm could give her a new life – but now old ghosts are dragging her into the past.
Following the tragic deaths of her husband and son, Leah is looking for a new life. Determined to bury her grief in hard work and desperate to escape Christmas and the reminders of what she has lost, she rushes through the purchase of a run-down Yorkshire farmhouse, arriving just as the snow shrouds her new home.
It might look like the loveliest Christmas card, but it’s soon clear it’s not just the house that needs renovation: the land is in bad heart, too. As Leah sets to work, she begins to see visions of the farm’s former occupants – and of the dark secrets that lie at the heart of Maitland Farm.
If Leah is to have a future, she must find a way to lay both her own past and theirs to rest – but the visions are becoming disturbingly real . . .
I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Maitland Farm is an isolated and remote farm in Yorkshire that has been empty for years and fallen into disrepair. None of the previous occupants of the farm ever lasted very long, nothing would grow in the fields, the orchard doesn’t bear fruit, something feels ‘off’ about the farm and it has passed from owner to owner. After the devastating deaths of her son and her husband, Leah purchases the farm and moves from the city of Manchester to the quiet village and secluded farm.
It is late in December when Leah rushes through the sale to get away from Christmas, the lights, the trees, the presents, the music and the general hustle and bustle that the season brings. Escaping the festivities that should be enjoyed by families and swapping them for isolation as she has lost hers and is now alone.
Not long after her arrival, Leah starts hearing things, a child laughing, a snowball thrown against the front door. Small and innocuous things, that while unsettling for her are explainable. But then, she starts to see echoes of the past. Glimpses of what has come before on the farm many years ago, like she is slipping back in time, watching snippets of past events from the lives of those who once lived there as they unfold.
Maitland Farm is centuries old and has accrued a history that is ingrained into the very foundations of the house and the soil. It is a place with mysteries to unravel, secrets to reveal and stories to tell. It is like the past is restless, stirring and close. The boundaries between the past and the present are thin and the laws of time are pliable on the farm.
As the farm starts to exert more of an influence over Leah the past starts to become more solid, bleeding into and overlapping the present. As the events of the past play out and with Leah as their audience the visions become more real and the ghosts gain in power reaching out from the past to impact the present.
The setting in Mistletoe is sublime. Firstly, the area is rife with folklore, myth, superstitions and traditions. The secluded Maitland Farm and the closed and small surrounding community who aren’t keen on outsiders and who look after their own. Secondly, Mistletoe takes place deep in the throes of winter and the wintry weather creates a very vivid setting. The constant snow that covers the area in a blanket of brilliant white and the chill of the season. You can feel the cold emanating from off the pages and there is some evocative imagery on display with the snow-covered landscape.
As a character Leah is likeable, you feel for and sympathise for her. Maitland Farm is very much a character of the book to go along with the human characters too and it is far more than just a setting and the place where the story takes place. Maitland Farm is derelict, run-down, has seen better days and it is broken, as is Leah. You could say that both Leah and Maitland Farm are looking to lay the past to rest and, that by fixing up the farm, by repairing it, she is repairing herself too. Moving on, putting the pain of her loss behind her, not forgetting her heart, the two people that were here world but allowing the grief to settle, to keep its place in her memories forever and move forward with a fresh start.
Although set in modern times there is a gothic feel to Mistletoe. There are no jump scares featured and, instead, Littlewood uses plenty of subtle scares throughout the narrative to build the tension, creep you out and unnerve you. The subtle scares are highly effective and along with the ominous air surrounding events on the farm, the isolation of Leah and the winter setting combine to create an atmospheric and haunting story that has a lingering unease to it.
Mistletoe is a terrific ghost story and one that would make for ideal reading on those cold, dark and lonesome winter nights. I also think that it would make for a tremendous festive TV mini-series.
Pre-order Mistletoe released October 10th, 2019.
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