#bookreview The Ghost Woods by C.J. Cooke published by HarperCollins


In the midst of the woods stands a house called Lichen Hall.

This place is shrouded in folklore – old stories of ghosts, of witches, of a child who is not quite a child.

Now the woods are creeping closer, and something has been unleashed.

Pearl Gorham arrives in 1965, one of a string of young women sent to Lichen Hall to give birth. And she soon suspects the proprietors are hiding something.

Then she meets the mysterious mother and young boy who live in the grounds – and together they begin to unpick the secrets of this place.

As the truth comes to the surface and the darkness moves in, Pearl must rethink everything she knew – and risk what she holds most dear.

My reading experience:

Firstly I would like to thank the author, publisher and Netgalley for my free ARC.

This is pure reading bliss for Halloween season replete with gothic horror, secrets and folklore. There are two protagonists, Mabel whose story is set in 1959, and Pearl – her story is set in 1965 and is the opener to the mystery of Mabel.

For twenty-first century readers the notion of women being sent away to have babies in secret full of guilt and shame is chilling enough, the horrors of these institutions lately exposed and already trickled into contemporary folklore. Then the author adds another layer, the mystery of the supernatural.

The descriptive prose depict intense emotive scenes of childbirth and loss, yet written in such a compelling way, the story is richer for it. Even more so is the story behind these babies, the power of the patriarchy, a society in which women were seen as second class citizens (arguably this is still the case) and unless in wedlock, full of sin and shame. A true horror story.

Themes include: shame, guilt, patriarchy, unwanted pregnancy, manipulation, exploitation, abandonment, grief, loss, love, trust, supernatural, fungi, folklore.

I highly recommend this second novel by C.J. Wood.


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