Mistletoe by Alison Littlewood

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Do you believe in ghosts?

Leah didn’t, she was recovering from a catastrophic event in her life, so moved herself away to a new area and a rundown empty house, to escape her grief, but as these things tend to do, it followed her to the house she was supposed to have had with her family – her own personal haunting.

She was not supposed to be moving alone at Christmas time, but now she was – and so she moved forward, regardless of how painful it was.

As soon as Leah tries to settle in, she feels she is being watched. Is it her imagination? Is someone playing tricks? Or is it something more sinister or supernatural lurking in the periphery, waiting for her to let her guard down.

Leah is determined to live in the house and make it her own, but others want her to know their history so she can truly belong. Leah is led on a curious and sometime hazardous journey to find others who have lived there and in doing so ultimately finding her true self.

I enjoyed this novel, it was very easy to read and Alison Littlewood masterfully set the scene for this thrilling read in the first few chapters like a true great of the genre (Shirley Jackson springs to mind – with the brooding horror and tension captured within Littlewood’s prose) and in doing so creates a dark, and disturbing book and at its very centre an atmospheric house which is a character in its own right. Isolated from everything and everyone, her protagonist, a poor bereft woman, trying to make a new start in life, was exquisitely captured and rendered tragically on the page by Littlewood. Leah is the lifeblood in this novel and she is fully realised and someone everyone can relate to, we champion with her, cry with her and hope with her.

Littlewood had me hooked with her unnerving start and captivating prose, there was something very uncanny about her writing, a growing dread filled me as I continued reading; I had no idea this was going to be a psychological thriller, supernatural horror novel – and it scared the hell out of me.

Mistletoe is so realistic that it’s easy to believe the events and the protagonist were based on real life incidents – Littlewood’s observations of the Christmas period were astute and I thought very clever – it was the jewel in the books crown having the usual time of happiness and merriment one associates with the season juxtaposed against the backdrop of fear and horror – each complimenting the other superbly to make Mistletoe a most unnerving read!

This book is about love, loss, and moving forward… whatever the cost!

Mistletoe is published by Quercus and is available here.

Alison Littlewood

Alison Littlewood is the author of six novels, all published by Jo Fletcher Books. A Cold Season was selected for the Richard and Judy Book Club, where it was described as ‘perfect reading for a dark winter’s night.’ Recent historical chillers The Hidden People and The Crow Garden received wide critical acclaim. Alison’s short stories have won the Shirley Jackson Award and been shortlisted for the British Fantasy award, and have appeared in numerous ‘Best of the Year’ anthologies. Alison lives with her partner Fergus in Yorkshire, England, in a house of creaking doors and crooked walls. You can talk to her on twitter @Ali__L, see her on Facebook and visit her at http://www.alisonlittlewood.co.uk.

Reviewed by Amanda Brightman

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