getImageYorkshire-based UK horror and dark fiction writer Alison Littlewood has already produced some very fine horror novels, and this, her third, has been nominated for Best Novel in this year’s Shirley Jackson Awards. The Unquiet House could be considered a brave choice for the Shirley Jackson Awards, because much of it is not only written with dialogue in a rich Yorkshire dialect, but also is initimately, palpably woven into its Yorkshire setting, so much so that parts of it are very effective period pieces. As a Brit, I have no idea how much American or other non-British readers are going to get out of this, but if the Shirley Jackson Awards ballot is anything to go by, the answer is, a great deal. And the novel’s genesis from Jo Fletcher Books, a very niche imprint of  Quercus Publishing under Hachette UK personally helmed by Jo Fletcher, has done it no harm at all either.

The story commences with Emma Dean, a modern and rather rootless young woman, arriving at Mire House, a forbidding mansion she has inherited from a distant relation. Soon she meets Charlie Mitchell, grandson of the original owner, and begins to uncover more of the secrets, and traps, of the house and its past. Yet the story leaves her at a cliffhanger (or rather, facing a different kind of drop) to dip back into the 1970s, and another equally unsettling encounter with the house and its owner, this time as experienced by a local boy named Frank and his little brother Mossy. This tainted Yorkshire idyll is then followed by another dive back into an even more distant past – through the eyes of Frank’s mother Aggie, a young girl back in 1939, seeing England on the eve of war and more tormented goings-on at the house. All those strands are knitted back together at the end of the book in a finale that lays bare their relation to each other – and that word is as far as I’m going to go as a spoiler for a very unsettling yet effective ending.

British authors apparently have a special gift for this kind of update on the classic haunted house story, and readers may be reminded of Adam Nevill’s excellent House of Small Shadows. The narrative does perhaps feel a little overstretched towards the end, but that could be just because the shock of its climactic revelation is so great that anything afterwards seems like an anti-climax. Mire House by the conclusion is empty once again but not untenanted, and the resolution of the complex tale is as carefully constructed as it is chilling. Even then, though, not entirely negative, such is the careful balancing of the tale and Alison Littlewood’s sympathy for its protagonists. Subtle, rich, and deeply evocative.

TeleRead Rating: 4 e-readers out of 5


  1. Ok, I was rolling my eyes, thinking Paul is going to cost me money again but then I found out the book hasn’t even been published in the US so it’s not available to me digitally. When they do get around to publishing it the US, odds are I will either have forgotten about it or the US publisher will change the title and/or cover and I’ll miss it completely.

  2. Thanks for checking but I think you must be logged in from your location. I don’t know if the author has sold the North American rights yet but in the US, I can only find it available in paper from third party sellers except for a signed hardback edition for $49.00 published by PS Publishing. In Canada, I could find only paper available from third party sellers

    Also, I forgot to thank you for the review. This one sounded like it would be a great fit for me.

    This was really just my snarky way of commenting on geo restrictions. I realize I have a lot more available to me than most in other countries but essentially this author has most likely lost an almost sure sale, it was all dependent upon price.

    I just remembered to check Powell’s which is where I used to buy all my UK editions before I converted to 100% digital. Those books were almost always used but were available 6-12 months before the US publication. Anyway, Powell’s actually has a new paper copy in their international warehouse and it’s only $12.50. That’s a great price when I look at current exchange rates. I’ve put it on my wish list.

  3. If the Yorkshire dialect is as thick as the review indicates, an American publisher will probably want to edit the book so the characters speak a “standard” Yankee English. An annoying shame, IMHO. There is nothing wrong with characters speaking in the way they would speak in that part of the world. I kind of like reading regional variations of English, but I’m probably in the minority there.

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