While Laura Phillips is grieving over her late husband Rich her world is coming completely undone. She questions if the things she hears and sees are truly there, an episode of the supernatural or her exhausted imagination. At the encouragement of her dearest friend she takes a trip as form of a distraction. The bed and breakfast she stays in and the small village for that matter seems to have even more mysterious connotations. With unexplained deaths, hauntings, tales of witchcraft and a supernatural tear in time Laura struggles to maintain her very sanity. Will she be able to overcome all adversity and cope with what life has delivered or will Laura simply succumb to The Pendle Curse?
This will mark the first time around for a reading odyssey with British author Catherine Cavendish in The Pendle Curse. I was instantly enamoured with her stylish prose in what many consider to be standard, formal and even polite English writing. Her style is a welcome change from the often vulgar and crass verbatim we’ve become desensitized in North American commercial literature. Not to mince words the text doesn’t come across as stuffy or too eloquent to pose as distraction. Quite the contrary, Ms. Cavendish’s style is digested easily and combines a fine combination of literary and commercial writing.
The overall premise of bereavement is a powerful one to choose in horror writing. There is little to no argument that the intent of any writer rather novice or most seasoned is to evolve as much emotion as possible. Fear is a relative sensation, vastly differing from person to person. While no easy feat for any author, Cavendish manages to exploit the sorrow of lead protagonist Laura making her vulnerable and easily accepted into the reading audiences’ hearts.
The theme of mysticism along with the paranormal and witchcraft is engaging and most certainly compelling. Folks at Samhain Publishing should have no difficulty marketing this gem to a vast demographic. While some genres are borderline saturated, this author breathes fresh air into a mash up of sorts with a completely innovative angle.
Perhaps what is most admirable about this novella is the fashion in which the point of view is taken. We’re introduced to Laura Phillips and learn of her bereavement at once. As her plight is outlined in first person persona we learn what makes her tick and subconsciously cheer her on in her insurmountable endeavor. The story swiftly takes us back to the 17th century and we meet the peasant family of The Devices. Drafted in third person perceptive we get a glimpse into the eccentric clan and learn about the scandalous circumstances that create a rippling effect into the contemporary situation of one Laura Phillips.
It doesn’t take long for the plot escalation to evolve into a subtext of reincarnation and possession. At the risk of indulging in too many plot spoilers let it be stated that suffice to say the already ethereal tale takes a most enigmatic detour of gripping proportions.
I especially enjoy how this author utilizes dream sequences in suspending a sense of surrealism. In a tale where it seems like all bets are off in terms of the imagination, Cavendish manages to up the ante forever challenging the parameters of our collective psyche.
One must be forewarned to take extreme caution when embarking upon this reading journey. Some content is not for the faint of heart. A most disturbing and intensely graphic birth scene comes to mind. While the magistrates’ search scenes may even titillate some while unnerving others. The nature of James’ and Alizon’s relationship some will find offensive if not controversial. On the other hand the sheer obscurity of many variables in The Pendle Curse are virtually guaranteed to create conversation within the horror community, making this a potential certifiable classic.
The final act unfolds that is nothing shy of spell binding and is worth the price of admission alone. I for one look forward to embarking upon further reading adventures with this tremendously talented author.
By Dave Gammon