Book - The Hidden People

Our own Pisky Lord, Romeo Kennedy, enters the world of the Hidden People as he reads the new novel from Alison Littlewood...

First of all I would like to thank the publishing fairies at Jo Fletcher Books for gracing me with an advanced copy of this book, which definitely ticks all the boxes for me.

Folklore, fairies and superstition.

But I also connected with this book on a deeper level, mainly because of its Yorkshire setting, where my Gran was from but also my own Cornish roots and upbringing. I have been around superstitions and belief in the "Hidden People" from a very young age and this book made me more appreciative of the meeting of the northern and southern beliefs and superstitions. Also, randomly, I used to think that only my gran ever used to serve tea with bread and butter as well as cake but now, after reading The Hidden People, I realise that this was not just her.

The Hidden People tells the story of one Albie Mirral whose cousin has been murdered by her husband. Seated with grief, Albie travels to Yorkshire and to the village of Halfoak where his murdered cousin resided, whereupon Albie is consumed by the circumstances surrounding his cousin's death. Could she really have been a Changeling or is this all just local superstition by a seemingly inward looking community?

Set in the Victorian age, The Hidden People sets out the very prevalent superstitions of small communities and how those beliefs clashed with the modernising of Britain. Albie is extremely skeptical of the beliefs that the Halfoak residents hold dear. In fact, Albie shows something akin to disdain for these archaic practices and there are moments in the book when the reader can feel Albie's confusion at the situation to his own detriment and near downfall.

In Albie Mirrall, Littlewood has created a character that is far from likeable and there is something very lost about him. He is not the dashing hero but his doggedness to piece together, and differentiate the fantasy from reality in the matter of his cousin, Lizzie's horrific murder.

The residents of Halfoak all appear to harbour deep secrets about their own lives and the lives of their neighbours. The enigmatic Mary Gomersal seems to know a lot more than she is letting on and she is one of the main residents that spreads her belief of changelings and fairies to the rest of the village. She is a truly interesting character and her motives become all too clear toward the end of the novel.

In the village there also lives a wise-woman who the reader meets only on a few occasions. The author has written a little background on the inspiration for this character and states that there were witches, or charmers right up into the 20th Century. Even when I was a small child, back in the late eighties, there were people who resided locally to me that were said to be charmers or witches. I would have liked to have read more about the wise woman but that abject mystery that surrounds her character makes her that more special.

In The Hidden People, Alison Littlewood has written a brilliant story full of mystery, murder and intrigue. At times it carries an almost Hammer-esque feel to it. One could imagine the character of Albie being played by the late great Peter Cushing.

And I did not see the wonderful ending coming at all.

Image - Amazon