The eye that fears a painted devil

Roof boss of the Devil eating Judas, Southwark Cathedral © C A Lovegrove

Wakenhyrst by Michelle Paver.
Line illustrations by Stephen McNally.
Head of Zeus, 2019.

“‘Tis the eye of childhood, That fears a painted devil.” — Macbeth Act II Scene II, 64-5

Michelle Paver’s historical novel, a combined murder mystery, Gothick fantasy and supernatural thriller, is a rich blend of psychological drama with elements of folklore, local dialect and period details, set in the East Anglian fens near Ely during the years leading to the Great War.

It’s also a tale of class divisions, domestic abuse and coercive control, set on an estate on the cusp of great changes, environmental as well as social. In addition to looking forward to the future – principally the 1960s, when fashions and attitudes had altered beyond all recognition – Wakenhyrst draws heavily from a past characterised by superstition and perilous existence.

And for those who love words and their meanings Wakenhyrst is chock-full of puns and allusions which can further enrich the reader’s enjoyment or, alternatively, merely add to the mysteries surrounding our young heroine Maud.

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