I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Witch Bottle by Tom Fletcher
Published by Jo Fletcher Books on November 26, 2020
Genres: Fiction, Horror, Rural Life, General
Source: NetGalley, Publisher
Buy on Amazon
A deeply atmospheric literary horror novel about the nature of repressed guilt, grief and fear: 'Unsettling, horribly gripping and touched with genius' says the Daily Mail
Daniel once had a baby brother, but he died, a long time ago now. And he had a wife and a daughter, but that didn't work out, so now he's alone. The easy monotony of his job as a milkman in the remote northwest of England demands nothing from him other than dealing with unreasonable customer demands and the vagaries of his enigmatic boss.
But things are changing. Daniel's started having nightmares, seeing things that can't possibly be there - like the naked, emaciated giant with a black bag over its head which is so real he swears he could touch it . . . if he dared.
It's not just at night bad things are happening, either, or just to him. Shaken and unnerved, he opens up to a local witch. She can't t discern the origins of his haunting, but she can provide him with a protective ward - a witch-bottle - if, in return, he will deliver her products on his rounds.
But not everyone's happy to find people meddling with witch-bottles. Things are about to get very unpleasant . . .
Witch Bottle is literary horror at its finest, perfect for fans of Andrew Michael Hurley's The Loney and Starve Acre.
Witch Bottle is a story that will constantly have your guard up. Fear surrounds this small hamlet-like fog clinging to the mountainside. It envelops around you, constricting you, breathing becomes more difficult, your sight becomes hazy, it’s an all-sense assault. This novel surprised me by the sheer force of its raw veracity and its human emotion. It leaves you feeling deeply unsettled with its supernatural element complemented perfectly with the decline of mental health and broken relationships. Cumbria has never felt so unearthly in this modern gothic thriller.
Daniel is on his own, after leaving his wife and baby daughter he has moved to Cumbria to become a milkman. He is renting his uncle’s house for a pittance as a favour to his mother. A very desolate figure that has suffered incredible loss. Being a milkman might not be for everyone, but Daniel sees it as very freeing, he enjoys driving and being out in the countryside. He doesn’t much like his colleague, Ryan.
Throughout the story, we get snippets from Daniel’s past. We see the experience of his wife’s pregnancy and childbirth through his eyes. I found these to be some of the most dramatic and nightmare-inducing scenes I’ve ever read in a book. He’s experienced a lot of trauma and pain in his life, it’s harrowing.
Dark and twisted. Witch Bottle was a story that went blind into, this did end up tripping me up a few times leaving me with a busted ankle with no way out. I genuinely believe that the author didn’t use these topics for shock value only no, it was used to examine just how mental illness and trauma can leave you wanting to isolate from the rest of the world. There are parts that are difficult to read but I believe that only strengthened the connection between plot, characters, and reader.
During his milk rounds, Daniel often pops into the La’al Tattie Shop. A local shop owned and run by Kathryn. He has a growing attraction to her but after feeling burned by his last relationship he is hesitant to take it further. The only thing is he has an unwelcome visitor and Kathryn is revealed to be a witch and can make him a trinket that will keep it away. Others in the hamlet seem to be having the same problem so she makes witch bottles for his customers and he delivers them during his rounds.
The writing was dramatic and it’s the kind of story that immediately pulls you in with its sense of foreboding. The backdrop to the story just added another layer to the feeling of dread, it reminded me of becoming lost on the fells as dusk approached – you knew it wasn’t going to be good but just how bad was at the mercy of the imagination.
Witch Bottle is an exquisite puzzle box. It’s off the wall, buckle up because Fletcher takes you on a rollercoaster ride that will have your mouth and stomach swapping places!