IFG O’Donnell conjures the spirit of the masters of fantasy horror from the late 19th and early 20th century in this surprising, magical and intense literary tale.
The Way Beneath The Wood is a twisting and turning modern fable of the English countryside in which the characters, haunted by shadows of the past and by sinister presences from folklore and myth, are unwittingly drawn into a cycle of envy, lust, fear and revenge that has repeated itself over many centuries.
Nick schemes to win back Hazel’s affections by sending her pages sliced from a curious old book. When the strange stories from the book begin to overshadow and overtake his life, Nick becomes unwittingly entangled in the mysterious events of centuries before, and soon his entire family is engulfed by the dark secret surrounding Wychwood Hall. In mortal danger from subtle, hidden forces, and at risk of losing everything he has fought for, Nick must confront his own demons as he strives to uncover the strange truth.
V Rowe –
Loved this book! Had got it on recommendation of a friend and was surprised and delighted by how cleverly woven between past and present its storylines were. More complex – and rewarding – than your average thriller / horror. Not one for normally giving 5 stars but this book earned it!
The Way Beneath the Wood by author I F G O’Donnell tells the story of Nick Carpenter, a man of sardonic wit, especially in thought, who appears to be at odds with everyone in his life. Early scenes suggest some self-pity is at play, but not entirely, as readers learn along the way. Nick is relatable in his professional and personal struggles because he also presents with an earnest desire to be successful in his efforts. Is he always honorable in the way he goes about striving for success? No. He’s suffering from greed, jealousy, lust, and a need to control outcomes. But he’s likeable, nonetheless! It helps his cause that, as readers come to know the people who orbit his life, it becomes clear that they’re not without blame. Nick’s attempts to salvage his broken relationship with his ex-girlfriend and find success in his business ventures might initially appear to be the plot of this story, but no, that’s not what’s going on here. There is so much more to this story!
The Way Beneath the Wood is an intricately woven tale which brings the modern world together with the past. Chapters alternate between what Nick is doing right now, to stories taken from the pages of an antique book in Nick’s possession called Folklore and Topography of Bewick. This book was written by a man named Walter Peachey, a long deceased naturalist and writer who went mad searching for fairies in their “timeless hall.”
Nick’s story is interspersed with old stories from Walter Peachey’s book, and readers should definitely pay attention to the content of those stories!
This Way Beneath the Wood is not fast-paced. Author O’Donnell savors the details he directs readers to in a mesmerizing way, gripping the imagination of the reader in his literary spell. Keenly observed images and dialogue set the mood and build an atmosphere of otherworldliness even while depicting modern settings. This translates well to the interspersed stories from Walter Peachey’s book. Elevated and elegant prose is used throughout even in the telling of the story of Nick who exists in the modern world. I found this made the transitions to chapters taken from Walter Peachey’s antique book less jarring. Readers will get a sense of an even older style of prose from Walter Peachey’s book, but there’s a comfortable subtlety that helps the story flow. In neither case is there a sense of a weak imitation of language. In fact, the language and sentence structure used by author O’Donnell contribute to the atmosphere of the story across the various timelines.
There are so many riveting stories within The Way Beneath the Wood. The stories all contain unique characters, even if you only meet them within a single chapter. Every character readers meet conveys a unique personality, bringing depth to the story. From Nick’s insufferable cousin Clifton, to his narcissistic mother, and then the volatile Sh***y Mary, the characters jump off of the pages with expressive personalities too richly drawn to blend in one with the other or leave the reader confused.
The Way Beneath the Wood is a brilliant story, gorgeously told through rich prose from a variety of sources. The stories are old and new and ultimately come together to create an ending that is sure to surprise and impress readers. I loved this story and highly recommend it to all. It’s only August, but I think I just read my favorite book of the year.