At its core, the gothic novel – like its offspring, the horror film – is a collection of familiar tropes rolled up in a patchwork quilt of tension and unease. Sally Hinchcliffe’s Hare House begins ticking gothic boxes on the very first page, where the unnamed, unreliable female narrator notes that names have been changed to protect the innocent – the tale itself, she implies, is quite true. And what a tale it is. Removed from her position at a girls’ boarding school after a case of mass hysteria, Hinchcliffe’s narrator flees her own demons, only to become entangled in those of the Henderson family: Grant, Cass and the spectre of their deceased brother, Rory. The rain-swept hinterland of Dumfries and Galloway is one of witches and worry dolls, transgression and transfiguration. Themes of magic, memory and mental illness twist together in this folk-horror narrative, leaving the reader ultimately unclear as to what is real.
Hinchcliffe writes atmospherically: her deft inclusion of a hare motif unsettles and intrigues, and the story’s sodden landscape is vividly drawn, though the human characters are less so. If the novel has a failing, it is that the narrator is too anonymous for the reader to engage with