Quick Review (read on for full review)
An atmospheric, chilling read. Foreboding and dramatic, this horror story is perfectly balanced and blurs the lines between normal life and the supernatural. 3.5 / 5
Summary (from Goodreads)
A deeply atmospheric literary horror novel about the nature of repressed guilt, grief and fear.
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.
I like to imagine that I live in one of the old farmhouses that dot the lonely moors, even though the thought of living in one of them makes me feel cold and afraid.
(From Witch Bottle by Tom Fletcher, page 12)
Witch Bottle is a strange, sometimes weird, imaginative horror story. I think, if I’m honest, I wanted to enjoy this book more than I did. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy at all, I just expected to enjoy it more.
There were plenty of things about this book that I thought were done very well. The atmosphere steadily built up until it became chilling. The book was well-written, easy to read and flowed nicely. I could easily picture the setting and the people Daniel met over the course of his day. The bizarre goings-on were so well-written that it was easy for the line between normal life and the supernatural to become blurred. Characters talking of ghosts almost seemed ordinary. Almost. And this gave the story a haunting, menacing, sinister quality.
Isolation was definitely one of the words I kept coming back to when I thought about writing this review. The isolation and bleak desolation of the setting. Daniel’s isolation from loved ones and family, and having very few real friends, if any. The isolation and loneliness that comes with issues of mental health. There is a chilling bleakness to this story, both in the narrative as the tale unfolds but in the backstory too. There’s is very little cheer here.
The story just felt a little too elusive for me, and I was unsure about the ending. Where the book had done so well balancing the creepy supernatural with normal life, making these strange goings on appear part and parcel of local, rural life, the ending felt a little out of step with the preceding tone.