Starve Acre, by Andrew Michael Hurley


Rating: 4 out of 5.

As you may now, if you follow my twitter, I received some gorgeous #bookpost from Readers First last night, this stunning hardcover copy of Starve Acre, by Andrew Michael Hurley, I had won it in a raffle – and it was a wonderful prize just in time for Halloween and it’s publication date.


Starve Acre is a gorgeous horror story with a compelling atmosphere, an overwhelming sense of grief and an astounding use of Gothic motifs.


My First Impressions based on a small snippet offered by Readers First: The book creates an overwhelming sense of isolation and grief. The pathos created by this immediately hooked me and made me connect with the book and the characters. The mysterious atmosphere makes me want to keep going and find out so much more!


Synopsis:

“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.”

Ewan’s death has left its mark on Richard and Juliette. Richard has thrown himself into his work, trying to avoid a forced sabbatical – but is unsuccessful. Juliette wanders about the home like a ghost, convinced that Ewan is still there somehow. The two are at odds, and arguing is a given, especially since Juliette enlisted the help of the Beacons.

The Beacons, a strange mystical group, have promised to help Juliette with the loss of her son, though Richard does not support this idea he takes part in order to be by his wife’s side. But, as the ceremony ends Mrs Forde, the lead Beacon, issues a warning to Richard about something evil or unnatral in the home.

Dismissive, Richard believes only in what he can see, and goes about his land trying to find the roots of the old large tree that once stood there. Instead he stumbles upon something else, and odd events begin to happen.

Flitting between the past and the present, Richard and Juliette deal with their son’s strange behaviour, and then his untimely death. But what exactly is wrong with Starve Acre? Is the folklore true, or has everything got a more logical explanation?


— Gorgeous And Incredibly Captivating —

The Writing Style And Narrative: Andrew Michael Hurley’s writing style is absolutely gorgeous and incredibly captivating, I was hooked from the start and read the book in one sitting. Hurley writes with a sense of both simplicity and complexity. His writing style is easy to get along with and breeze through, but it is also amazingly immersive and beautiful to read. I found that even when the book is a little slow, particularly in the beginning while the story is building up, it had little effect on my enjoyment because the writing was so wonderful and made me want to keep reading. Moreover, Hurley is very good at creating a compelling atmosphere through his writing and cleverly creates pathos throughout to keep you emotionally invested. Furthermore, the switching of timelines is never confusing, it aids the mystery of the novel, helps create an unsettling atmosphere, and gives us more insight into the horror that resides in Starve Acre-it was beautifully done.

Moreover, the pathos, and subsequent emotional investment, is supported by the narrative choice. The story is told from Richard’s perspective, we get to see and feel his grief, his isolation, his heartbreak. But we also are able to see his way forward, how he chooses to heal, and how he rationalises everything he experiences. While I would have loved to see some of the elements from Juliette’s perspective, I understand that this absence serves to add to the overall mystery of the book-and it does work. The narrative also allows for us to hear about the folklore, the superstitions and the past stories naturally, and as warnings. It adds a creepy and unsettling element to the story, and while Richard waves it off as nothing more than a silly story, we are able to make connections to the events that occur in the present day, we can theorise, and we are in suspense of what is to come.


— Creepy And Gothic —

The Plot And Setting: The plot of the story is clever and full of suspense, while it uses a lot of classic horror ideas or tropes, such as creepy folklore, it does so in a unique way. Hurley’s story borders on psychologically thrilling. While there are some brutal and horrific elements that are outright creepy and concerning, the crux of the horror is on the suspense and the effects of the grief. I would have liked to see more outright horror, but I loved the way the suspense and horrific events were used to created a dark and creepy atmosphere. Hurley is quite the master when it comes to creating a suspenseful story, even in one as relatively short as Starve Acre. The story did not end how I thought it would either. The plot is actually quite unpredictable and the ending is undeniably creepy, horrifying and unsettling, but also ambiguous and uneasy. It is not the ending I expected, nor wanted while I was reading, but it is an ending that is deserved, it works extraordinarily well for the type of book this is and leaves you with a feeling of dread and uncertainty – which can be more effective than an all round resolution.

Oh my heart was delighted at the intense use of Gothic motifs. The setting is that of the Yorkshire Dales, it is vast, isolated, the land is infertile, and it has an inherent feeling of of being cold and haunting. This was so gorgeously Gothic that I couldn’t help but be delighted. The setting was incredibly effective in terms of adding to the terrifying atmosphere of the book and made you really connect with the loneliness and grief that was surrounding the home and its occupants.


— Compelling And Realistic —

The Characters: Each character was compelling and realistic, Richard and Juliette both dealt differently with their grief, grew apart, and became ghosts of their former selves – a very in-depth depiction of grief and loss.

Richard. He is contrasted with Juliette constantly throughout the book. He is trying to move on but is still haunted by the loss of his son. He has thrown himself into his work, and it insistent on finding the tree roots, a welcomed distraction from his grief. But, he is also logical, a realist, he does not believe in the supernatural, the folklore or Juliette’s notion that Ewan is still with them. He is the hardest to convince and even when he witnesses something unnatural, he accepts it because it happened before his eyes, and he rationalises it by linking the experience with spring. It is interesting that his perspective is the one used as the events that occur do not always horrify him and yet suspense is created regardless. His grief is easy to connect with, even if you do not conform to his rationale- it is understandable.

Juliette. Juliette comes across as a ghost, she wanders, hears crying and is convinced her son is still with them. Her grief has consumed her, and she has no wish to move on. After the ceremony, she changes, and it is questionable as to whether or not it is a good thing – she becomes a little creepy, cruel at times and obsessive. While her grief is something we sympathise or empathise with, her character is one that is unlikable, possibly due to the unnatural forces. This makes the book become even creepier, particularly the ending, as Juliette is seemingly happy but she is not behaving naturally.

Gordon. This character seems to know more than he lets on. He warns Richard, dislikes the land and lives further away. He buys into the folklore and the bad luck of Starve Acre. His character is actually quite likeable, is not a little questionable. While he tries to help and simply adored Ewan, there is an underlying feeling that he could be more helpful, could know something more.

Harrie. Juliette’s sister comes to the home to help break her out of her grief. She is determined, forceful and headstrong, while she tries to be helpful and is horrified about the strange behaviours of her sister, she can be irritating and seems so believe she knows best – unable to comprehend the grief Juliette feels. Her character is not one I hated, but I did not overly like her either. However, she was useful to the story and the suspense.

Ewan. A seemingly kind child, obedient and helpful. Yet, you become fearful of him, and his vicious ways. His character is seen through the past timeline, and is one that you feel sympathy for but also scared of. He is unpredictable, cruel and creepy, but can flit back to his kind personality in an instant. His character is key to the suspense and creepiness of the novel, and it works very well.


— Gorgeously Gothic And Incredibly Creepy —

Overall: Starve Acre, by Andrew Michael Hurley is gorgeously Gothic and incredibly creepy. The book is filled with suspense and is unpredictable and shocking.

I would definitely recommend this as a Halloween read, or one for a cold dark night. If you love suspense, uncertainty and creepy folklore then you will love this!


Content Warning. Some animal abuse, violence – may be disturbing for some readers.

8 comments

  1. […] Starve Acre, by Andrew Michael Hurley: Status–Read + Reviewed. ⭐⭐⭐⭐ — This is a wonderful horror, filled with suspense, Gothic motifs and a satisfyingly creepy tone. This atmospheric horror follows Richard and Juliette as they try to deal with the untimely death of their 5 year old son. […]

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  2. OH MY GODDD THAT IS ONE GORGEOUS BOOK! 😍😍😍❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

    AND I am SOOO glad that it’s not just a pretty face! The way you described it made me want to read it as soon as possible! I AM A SUCKER FOR DARK AND CREEPY SETTINGS….AHHHH….EVERYTHING GOTHIC!!! 😍😍😍❤️❤️❤️ AND THE PRESENCE OF ALL THIS HAS MADE ME EVEN MORE IMPATIENT TO READ IT! .

    I also adore how you have given an account of all the characters! This is a VERY well and thoroughly written review, Kb! I LOOVEEEEDDD IT!! ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️😘😘😘😘🥰🥰🥰

    Liked by 1 person

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