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Starve Acre
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Starve Acre (Hardback)

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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.

Fiction & PoetryHorrorFiction & PoetryModern & contemporary fiction post c 1945 Publisher: John Murray Press Publication Date: 31/10/2019 ISBN-13: 9781529387261  Details: Type: Hardback Format: Books
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Andrew Michael Hurley is based in Lancashire. His first novel, The Loney, was originally published by Tartarus Press as a 300-copy limited edition, before being republished by John Murray. It went on to sell in twenty languages, win the Costa Best First Novel Award and the Book of the Year at the British Book Industry Awards. Devil's Day, his second novel, was picked as a Book of the Year in five newspapers, and won the Encore Award.

More books by Andrew Michael Hurley

Customer Reviews

Richard and Juliette have lost their only son, Ewan, and neither of them knows how to cope. Starve Acre, the family house that had begun to feel home is now filled with painful memories and shadows of the past. While Richard retreats into himself and tries to move on, Juliette chooses to live in the past, sleeping in Ewan's room and watching for him, convinced that his spirit is still in the house. When a group of spiritualists comes over to help them move on, will they be more help or hindrance to the family's grieving process? The cover reads "Genuinely and brilliantly disturbing", and the further into this book I got, the more apt this phrase seemed to be. Filled with slow pacey scenes, and dark foreshadowing, this book is a perfect balance between a straightforward narrative and a creeping folkloric nightmare. I was reminded of early classic horror movies like Rosemary's Baby and Vertigo, which embody that spine chilling subtlety of horror, working simple things into the psyche until something simple like a framed photograph or a road map (or a hare...) can send you into nervous convulsions. The characters in this book were wonderfully crafted from real life, and while I felt for Richard, I found that I did not feel any desire to sympathise with Juliette or take her side. The relationship she had with her family made me so uncomfortable, I think it added a lot to my experience of this claustrophobic tale. I loved this book all the way through, and enjoyed the ambiguous magic at play, if I may be allowed to call it that. The narrative is told so straightforwardly, and yet there is enough of a veil over what is really happening, to create a somehow plausible realm of story. My only complaint, and It isn't really that if I'm honest, is the ending. I was frustrated by where the story was left, and how it just suddenly finished without conclusion or explanation. The reason I say this is not really a complaint is that an explanation probably would have ruined the story's eerie subtlety, and conclusions are often not nearly as satisfying as you would hope. At the end of the day I suppose this ending adds a certain something to the book overall, and so who am I to say it was too abrupt? This folklore noir is a short but languorous work of fiction, and I guarantee that it will capture your imagination for weeks after you finish the last line. For fans of local legends and dark history, this book will certainly keep you on your toes. I think if you loved this story you should try Lanny by Max Porter, which although very different overall, shares some similarities with Starve Acre.

- 21/01/2020
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A growing sense of unease permeates in a compelling & atmospheric tale of grief and the surreal. As someone who would normally give a wide berth to a horror story and the unexplainable I certainly did not expect to be mesmerised by Starve Acre, however between the brooding atmosphere and a growing sense of unease, it made for an oddly compelling read. Set in a richly described Yorkshire Dales first time parents, Richard and Juliette Willoughby, are six months on from the death of Ewan, their five year old son. Having returned, with some misgivings on Richard’s part, to his childhood home of Starve Acre for the very purpose of bringing up their planned offspring, they are both mired in grief but poles apart and struggling to come to terms with their loss and make sense of Ewan’s short life. Shut out by Juliette and with memories of his parents unhappy end at Starve Acre, Richard devotes his energies to uncovering the roots of a centuries old oak tree in the attached field that was the reputed site of hangings. But described as a barren landscape that has failed to foster new growth, Richard is vehemently warned against digging but his initial discoveries of bones combined with the chance finding of a series of woodblock prints depicting the site in his father’s former study lure him onwards and inspire hope. For Juliette, convinced that she can still hear Ewan’s voice, the answer seems to lie in seeking the help of the Beacons, a small local occultist group. Fiercely sceptical and viewing it as nothing more than smoke and mirrors, Richard is allowed to be present for the groups visit, only for it to initiate or coincide with a frenzied series of changes in Juliette, but as her conviction in the process deepens, she remains untempered by Richard vocal concerns for her mental health. But having started on its course, can any of what has begun really be halted? The story is narrated from Richard’s perspective and moves back and forth to wend an unsettling tale of the Willoughby’s ongoing struggle mixed with glimpses into Ewan’s life and his gradual change into a cruel and sullen boy after starting at the village primary where his behaviour served to ostracise the family even more. Along with Richard and Juliette’s grief comes the burden of guilt and their increasingly unsettling feelings for a child whose behaviour changed to result in a spiteful and unpredictable boy whose explanation for his misdemeanours was the voice of a malevolent local myth called Jack Grey. There is an understated simplicity to the prose and the stark descriptions of the surrounding Yorkshire Dales and changing seasons conjure up a backdrop of rich imagery. Although I found the ending abrupt and would have liked some greater explanation for the unearthly, in hindsight the ambiguous nature means clarity remains just become the readers grasp and hence invested until a shocking end. Oddly compelling and a beautiful exploration of the lengths that the grief-stricken can be driven to as they endeavour to move forward. An author whose previous novels I intend to explore.

- 31/10/2019
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