Starve Acre by Andrew Michael Hurley is a uniquely beautiful novel, following a young couple after the death of their only child. Living in a large country manor they inherited, next to a village of people that don’t trust them, Richard and Juliette are just doing what they can to get through the day. When a friend suggests a visit from the Beacons, a group of people lead by a mystic, Juliette jumps at the opportunity to get close to Ewan again but Richard is sceptical. With strong themes of grief and isolation, this book takes gothic literature and folk-horror to create a story as mesmerising as it is unsettling.
The two main characters take to the loss of their only son in very different ways. Richard throws himself into his work and becomes obsessed with the land they live on. Inherited from his late father who went crazy in the walls of Starve Acre. It has a dark history and the local people, including good friends are reluctant to step on the grounds. Richard is determined to find out what happened to his small portion of the world. His drive to work only seems to add to the strain on his marriage with Juliette; who has reacted to the loss in a more emotional way. She has taken to sleeping in Ewan's old bedroom and convinced his soul remains nearby. She’s willing to do absolutely anything she needs to do so she can be with her son again.
I have read a lot of gothic literature and a fair amount of folktales, so I was a little unsure whether this novel was going to live up to the expectations but it did more than that. It went from a fragile story about death to a historical folk story about a mythical monster to a seriously unsettling horror. Whether there is any real element of the supernatural, it’s hard to say because the characters aren’t the most reliable sources of information and that is a subtle but amazing element of gothic literature I’ve always loved. I was hooked up to the final line that made my skin crawl.
Anyone who enjoys gothic literature, from Wuthering Heights to Wakenhyrst, is going to love this novel. And anyone interested in English country folktales is going to find it exciting. I am going to be recommending this book to everyone. Without a doubt, one of the best novels I've read so far this year.