Welcome to my stop on the Mistletoe #Blogtour! Happy Reading My BookNerds ❤ 😉
Mistletoe by Alison Littlewood is a suspenseful winter read with the addition of perfectly entwined Gothic elements.
In Mistletoe we follow the main character, Leah, as she moves to a dilapidated and rundown farm, that was previously owned by her family (ancestors), following the death of her son and her husband. She moves there in the hope that she can renew, rebuild and refresh the farmhouse over Christmas and the New-Year while simultaneously using this project to move past the tragedy of her loss. However, upon moving in she starts to hear voices, see people and watch clips of what seems to be the past and finds herself entangled in a mystery that haunts her farmland. She manages to befriend a local family and hopes that they will help to shed light on the past occurrences of the farm, but they are incredibly reluctant to do so, and she ultimately ends up worrying for their son and tries to push them away. Instead she opts to handle the situation herself and finds it increasingly difficult as her house begins to slowly fill with mistletoe, her land slowly dies and the visions become more frequent. As she tries to sift through the mystery and the old items she finds on the farm (from creepy dolls to wrapped up mistletoe), she realises she may be closer to this than she originally thought.
Mistletoe is an interesting read, though it takes a lot of influence from traditional horror, it does bring a fresh perspective on them and I was definitely interested in the story. Littlewood is a master at creating suspense in this book, she cleverly combines the objects and the events to keep the reader in a constant state of curiosity and suspense by giving them just enough information that you think you know what is going to happen, only to surprise them with an unexpected. shocking and horrific event. Moreover, Littlewood did not shy away from using multiple horror and gothic elements that are seemingly irrelevant and unexpected initially, instead she masterfully combines and entwines them into the larger story until you realise how key each of them are.
Interestingly enough Littlewood’s use of traditional horror elements (such as the use of a creepy doll, abandoned lonely house, and ghostly figures) does not feel like traditional horror at all. Instead it feels completely fresh and new, something I believe is difficult to find in horror-at least for me! This is because of how she uses them (skip the end of this paragraph if you want to avoid minor spoilers) as Littlewood clearly did her research and used a variety of Cultural references, beliefs and superstitions to use the full potential of these objects. For example, the initial discovery of the creepy doll initially appears to set up for it being possessed or alive- a common horror storyline- but this is not the case, instead it goes much deeper and much creepier as the doll itself is a burial doll. This already has creepy connotations and is key in setting up suspense and a much more in depth story. Furthermore, Littlewood’s use of mistletoe in itself appears to draw from several cultural sources ranging from Ancient Greece, with possible links with Norse mythology, to the Romans and to Victorian England- each of which have beliefs ranging from fertility, to murder/poison, to eternal love. I love symbolism and this was some of the most in-depth use of it I have seen – I thought it was amazing and it added wonderfully to the suspense in the book! This was extraordinarily unique.
(Spoiler Free from here onwards) Furthermore, I love gothic novels (which if you’ve seen my classic rec’s then this will not surprise you) and Mistletoe does not disappoint in this regard. This book is the perfect winter Gothic read with ideas of isolation, horror, grief, and the landscape, and death all contributing to it. The scene (the farmland/farmhouse) is the perfect type of gothic setting with a vast, open land that is isolated, dilapidated and dying – all of which adds to the suspense of the story. The added impact of the winter setting and snowfall creates a drastic sense of obscurity, which adds to the horror, and also creates the sense of a beautiful haunting.
The characters of this story are interesting, well developed and easy to connect with, particularly Leah. Leah’s character is complex, interesting and emotional. She is easy to connect with and feel for, and her grief is heart-breaking, particularly as you learn more about the deaths (this is not a massive part of the novel but rather is added in scenes where it will have the most effect and is done in a careful and clever way that adds to the reader’s suspense and emotional connection to the characters). However, my only issue with the novel was the difficulty to feel the end impact of some of the built up suspense – which was unfortunately due to Leah’s character. Leah appears to have a very accepting sort of demeanour about some elements of the hauntings which makes it difficult to actually feel scared for her- I know this is in part due to her grief and at times does make sense and creates a atmosphere of grief and uncertainty but there are times where it falls a little flat (this is only at minor times though). However, there are times where she destroys things to stop what is happening or rushes to see a noise/help someone and is in general despair- at times like these you definitely can feel the impact of the suspense that has been built, and IT DELIVERS. Moreover, there are times where Leah has had enough, or is determined to end what is happening on her own – this creates a wonderful sense of suspense that really delivers as she begins to face the demons of her farm.
The ending to Mistletoe was also clever and one I did not expect. Though a little convoluted it is definitely an unexpected and shocking ending where you question whether the book will end with the characters alive or dead! The novels resolution is interesting and satisfying, though it is left slightly open, it leaves you with the sense of wanting to know what happens even just a little in the future, you still want to follow the story even though the horror has seemingly come to its conclusion.
Littlewood very cleverly and creatively weaves the past and present together in this novel and uses multiple elements of traditional horror in refreshingly new ways. I enjoyed reading Mistletoe and plan to do so again on a cold wintry night to appreciate its full effect. Mistletoe is a wonderful tale of loss, grief, selfishness and life and I would definitely recommend adding this to your winter TBR pile!
Personally, I would say to read this on a winter’s night in order to enjoy the full effects of the story-it is a perfect read for by the fire! Maybe you to can enjoy some mistletoe (though perhaps more in the decorative or romantic sense).
*I received an e-advance digital copy from #netgalley @QuercusBooks @JoFletcherBook in exchange for an honest review*