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Review: In the House in the Dark of the Woods

Updated: Sep 12, 2021

3/5 stars

In the House in the Dark of the Woods, by Laird Hunt (2018)

"Here be magic birds, killer swarms, tepid wells, glamor magic, hags, and the blackest magic of all: memory."

I was quite excited for this book because a few years back I read his 2014 novel Neverhome for Writers & Books' Turning Pages Readers Circle, and it was a great read! This one was a little more convoluted, story-wise, but still quite captivating, and Laird's beautiful, lyrical writing style is present as well.

The book combines psychological horror with common fairytale elements - but, like, the original, dark Grimm's tales. The ones with murders and kidnappings and witches and body parts being cut off. It all starts with a woman living in colonial New England with her husband and son. She goes for a walk, then goes missing in the woods. Maybe. Did she leave on purpose, or was she taken? While she's in the forest she meets some mysterious characters - like Captain Jane, Eliza, Granny Someone, and Red Boy - and... very strange things happen to and around her. It's actually quite difficult to write about this book without giving things away, and it's definitely better to go in without a lot of knowledge of the characters already. But at one point there is a flying aircraft made of human skin and bones. That are maybe still alive?

Honestly, this book was pretty confusing and very bizarre, and yet I found it engrossing. I actually think this would be a great book for a book club discussion - because there are so many themes and references throughout, and I think it would be a lot of fun to pick apart and analyze, like the literary trope of "Maiden, Mother, Crone."

I do think it's interesting that Hunt chooses to tell his stories from a female perspective - in this one, as well as in Neverhome. That can be a turn-off for me when I see a book's description and their author, and yet I didn't find anything particularly annoying or disturbing in the character depictions here (I mean with regards to a female character being written by a male... there are definitely some disturbing images in the book itself!).

I'd definitely recommend this book if you like horror and fairytales. It's spooky, and descends into a kind of madness pretty early on. If you like the idea of getting lost in the woods with witches (Blair Witch Project, anyone?), you'll love this.


UP NEXT: Name All the Animals, by Alison Smith

I'm reading this for my book club, the Book Thieves. We meet over Zoom next week Thursday, September 3 from 7-8pm, and the author will be joining us for the latter half of our meeting. Let me know if you want to attend!

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