Halloween Reads: Harvest Home by Thomas Tryon.

Publisher: (New Kindle Edition) Open Road Media

Published: 24th September 2013

ASIN: B00EZEX7PW

Harvest Home was one of the first books I sneaked off my mum’s bookshelf when I was a teenager. It was a TV series back in the 1970s when I was at primary school, but I remembered it as one of the scariest books I’d ever read. For some reason it has always stayed with me, possibly because of the set-up which is now so common in TV and film, there are shades of The Wicker Man, Midsommar and even the parody horror film Hot Fuzz. Theodore and his wife Beth have been watching their daughter struggle with severe asthma, not helped by New York’s air. This and the rising crime rates in Manhattan inspire the couple to the relocate upstate.

When searching New England the couple stumble across an idyllic village setting. Cornwall Coombe has the perfect nineteenth century farmhouse with attentive and friendly neighbours. Theo is sure that here they will lead a simpler life, closer to nature and closer to each other. However, what they find will be ultimately more terrifying than any alley in Manhattan! I remember loving the creeping sense of doom in the book and that wonderful contrast between the purity of nature around them and the cancer at the heart of the village. Our protagonist is the only one who sees the worrying signs at first, and I liked that friction between him and Beth. The women in the family seem to settle in quickly and never see anything out of the ordinary. There’s also the frisson of sex, as Tamar the village postmistress is openly flirty with Theo. She gives off definite sexy witch vibes as she smoulders at her male customers. However, Theo’s horrifying encounter with her young daughter could potentially scare him away. Will Tamar get to have what she wants?

The tension builds as the village’s harvest celebrations are planned. Theo suspects this is more than the average harvest festival and there is some dark secret to the ceremonies. Even worse his wife and daughter are now becoming involved. There is one other man in the village who Theo thinks might have unearthed the secret, but he is now blind and doesn’t get out very much. Is this the result of an illness, or has he been punished for what he has seen? The women definitely rule this village, running the festival and potentially some sort of coven, with the postmistress presiding over all. Theo has to ask himself whether he really wants to know the secrets of harvest home. The final reveal is deliciously dark, twisted and holds its biggest shock to the end. On rereading this still stands up well. Since the 1970s this genre is quite a well trodden path, it has the tension and menace of Straw Dogs and the surface charm of a wholesome village that does things for ‘the greater good’. This is a little known horror that has definitely stood the test of time.

Published by thelotusreaders

Hello, I am Hayley and I run Lotus Writing Therapy and The Lotus Readers blog. I am a counsellor, workshop facilitator and avid reader.

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