Saturday 21 December 2019

On Bewitchment, A Book Launch - and Bronte Inspiration

 "Cavendish (The Darkest Veil) draws from the best conventions of the genre in this eerie gothic novel about a woman’s sanity slowly unraveling within the hallways of a mysterious mansion..."

"...Cavendish successfully maintains the suspense as she dives into the intricacies of her carefully-constructed world. Fans of gothic tropes will appreciate the atmosphere and intensity of this horror tale" 

 To say I was delighted with this review from Publishers' Weekly*, from which the above quotes are taken, is putting it mildly. Blown away is more accurate.

So, what is the reviewer talking about? Here's the official synopsis:

Don’t play the game.

In 1893, Evelyn and Claire leave their home in a Yorkshire town for life in a rural retreat on their beloved moors. But when a strange toy garden mysteriously appears, a chain of increasingly terrifying events is unleashed. Neighbour Matthew Dixon befriends Evelyn, but seems to have more than one secret to hide. Then the horror really begins. The Garden of Bewitchment is all too real and something is threatening the lives and sanity of the women. Evelyn no longer knows who - or what - to believe. And time is running out... 

The Garden of Bewitchment is set in the heart of the Pennines in rural Yorkshire. High up on the moors where the Bronte sisters would have walked endlessly in all weathers, the wind whips through the grass and heather on even the mildest of days - and those are few and far between, even in high summer. This is a place where the weather can change from sunny, with blue skies, to freezing rain and gale-force winds in five minutes flat. Sheep farming is tough here - arable farming pretty much unthinkable. You have to be made of strong stuff to survive the winters.


But, in slightly more clement weather, take a walk along narrow well-worn paths and immerse yourself in the timeless experience. You may not see another living soul. It is a place to cleanse and refresh your spirit; somewhere you can scream into the wind, expelling your stress and frustration with modern day living. Gaze at those ancient hills and mountains; they have been there for millennia and will be there for millennia to come. Suddenly your cares, worries and problems are put into perspective. A few hours on a Pennine moor is worth a year of Prozac!

I grew up in Halifax - historic centre of the woollen industry and only a few short miles from Haworth. As a child, I walked those same moors. I would frequently take myself off up there, nearly getting blown over by the wind. I would take shelter up against one of the huge overhanging rocks and let my mind wander, hearing the warning cries of a lone, circling curlew as she (no doubt) informed her young of my presence. But it was the eerie whistling sound the wind made that would thrill me and, when I read Wuthering Heights for the first time, I was transported back up onto those moors.. Every time I re-read it, I get the same feeling,even though it is now decades since I was able to call Halifax my home.

Was it Emily Bronte's book that first drew me into the Gothic? Quite possibly. To me, Gothic literature is all about the evocative, dark atmosphere, and Wuthering Heights is steeped in that. For me, it even has a colour palette all of its own - black, grey, deep purple, swirling and misty. No other book quite does that for me which is why I return to it again and again - the only book I have ever read so often.

For a long time, I wanted to use Haworth as a backdrop for a Gothic horror novel and, in some way, to involve the Brontes. In The Garden of Bewitchment, it is the tragic Branwell who comes to the fore. My character, Claire, is obsessed with him - even though he died before she was born. 

For research, my husband and I stayed in Haworth for a week and went up to the moors more than once. The weather was fair and we sat on a flat topped rock where the sisters themselves might well have rested. Gazing out over the undulating landscape, I let my mind drift. In my mind's eye, I saw the three sisters in their long, cumbersome dresses, hats tied with long ribbons, playing out ideas for their stories while Branwell looked on, smoking a clay pipe, a sketchpad open beside him, charcoal pencil resting on top.

We stayed there for maybe an hour. Not a living soul to be seen. Just the rustling of the grass and heather, birdsong and the kiss of a breeze on my cheeks.

Not much changes up on the moors...


Blackwell's University Bookshop in Liverpool is hosting my official book launch for Garden of Bewitchment on Thursday February 20th at 6.30p.m. If you can get there, I will be delighted to welcome you. We shall be talking about the ghostly, the Gothic, and anything else that crops up.

The event is ticket only - but the tickets are FREE. Booking couldn't be simpler. Either click onto Facebook or Evenbrite at the links highlighted below;

You can pre-order The Garden of Bewitchment here:

*follow this link to see the full review