The Haunted Grove – Tim Jeffreys

I’m due to start below another of my gradual real-time reviews, trying to blend leitmotifs into a gestalt. And it is of the Kindle ebook entitled ‘The Haunted Grove’ and other stories  – by Tim Jeffreys that I  purchased today.

The Haunted Grove and other stories

There is no guarantee how long it will take to complete this review, whether days or years.

CAVEAT: Spoilers are not intended but there may be inadvertent ones. You may wish (i) to take that risk and read my review before or during your own reading of the stories, or (ii) to wait until you have finished reading them. In either case, I hope it gives a useful or interesting perspective.

All my real-time reviews are linked from here:



1.The Wreck

I’ve never before encountered a new author (new to me, in any event) whose work – or my initial reading of it when, even now, as I write this about it, I’ve still to complete the first whole item in this book’s contents list –  grabs me so significantly from page one.  I forgot I was reading fiction: the limpidly crystalline style flowed through me like literary weather (here icy woodland cold) where, Isaac, sixteen years old  (with the underpinning help of his easy-minded, equable narrator) takes me into a world where the older men traditionally vanish from the community, for long periods, to fulfil their mining jobs leaving their wives with cold beds: and, alone, Isaac witnesses distant signs of a plane crash which he needs to investigate (a ‘Lost’ scenario?) but not before meeting one of the wives fresh from her cold bed.  Seriously involving prose, compellingly page-turning.  But I vow to savour this book over time and not rush… (27 Feb 12 – 7.00 pm gmt)

2. The Ruin

Isaac, not quite old enough to be sent with the other men mining, is given a token job at the lumberyard to soak up his time: but he plies his wood elsewhere, despite his intrinsic goodness having tantamount cut his nose off to spite his face. Along with the continuing compulsion to read this entrancing tale of honest bodily love, I was trying to fathom why this section is called ‘Ruin’. The first section’s ‘Wreck’ I assumed was the crashed plane. I have even started scraping away (from the air bus) the red letters of the mining company’s name to tease the word out.  But u is lost. [Mining – creating mine not yours?] (28 Feb 12 – 1.05 pm gmt)

3. The Fall

The trouble about real-time reviewing this first work, is that I don’t know if I’ve been ‘spoiling’ (for you or, even, for me) its light-touch uplifts and tragedies amid the story’s conceived hard life of ‘mining’ oneself. Here, with theatrical strength of narration, the residual leading players converge in presumably downbeat mode: dramatic, possibly melodramatic, and we are left in the tantalising position, as readers, of never knowing the outcome: because, digging between the lines (or under them), each protagonist’s outcome will be different as they try to make the leap beyond the act of just ‘reading’ each other’s eyes. Between Wreck and Ruin, is buried Winter. But after each Fall, awaits that Spring [today on leap-year day]. (29 Feb 12 – 8.30 am gmt)


“He knows from what he saw in the match light that he is surrounded.”

And now to a real fall, presumably, a fall into a well and waiting for, despairing of, rescue, as he addresses his loved one, that hopeful rescuer. A micro-vignette: a microcosm of box-within-box-within-box… (matchboxes?) of things that harbour him as a dream or things he himself harbours as dreams…  But like the competing motives in the much longer previous work in this book, I am not sure, intriguingly, which motive will likely prevail between the motive least or most damaging to one’s human selfishness and the motive most or least damaging to one’s sense of moral self-esteem (a subtle distinction that is here evoked for me dependent on where self preservation stops and self worth begins)… And if I write any more about this work, I will be in danger of writing more words than the work itself contains!  Whatever the case, I am already sure (only this far into the book) that we certainly have a class act of a writer here whose fiction, I am led to understand, few have yet encountered. (29 Feb 12 – three hours later)


The girl on the above cover is glancing at me! (29 Feb 12 – another 2 hours later)


Another absorbing fiction upon the dilemma of selfishness and unselfishness (Y allowing X to survive for the basic human benefit of Y even though X’s survival is to the detriment of Z who is loved by Y), a tension that is tellingly even more complex: as if what is actually detrimental in that formula can become a cleansing passion. One’s life is potentially a short-lived fire that otherwise burns brightly, viciously, destructively during a moment that is more valuable than a whole lifetime without such a momentary fire – but a consummation of fire needs pursuing so as to allow it to travel from person to person (unlike normal fire that is all-consuming if left unchecked).  A fire here that effectively can only travel through or along the words that describe it. And those words stem from this very story. Another interesting concept factored into the above considerations is that a person can be intrinsically ‘foreign’ when anywhere in the world.  ‘Fire’ is embedded in ‘Foreign’, but that is probably just chance.  More importantly perhaps,  such singular foreignness  is just another variety of fire-break or unconnectedness. A one-off passion without impingement. Keeping it selfishly to oneself. And others yearning for such an overweening passion somehow deliberately fail to make a human-chain of water-buckets from this book’s earlier Well…? (1 Mar 12 – 5.40 pm gmt)


Never leave a straight trail if a crooked one will do.”

I usually try to maintain an audit trail as far as possible when real-time reviewing a book for its connections: yet this particular work’s ever re-readable obliquity of a nonsense-poem prose vignette has inserted the ‘churn’ in the ‘chain’ (please see my review of the Bestwick story here for what I mean) – yet with the motives that mix and match above in tantalising bouts of selfishness and unselfishness we have here a puckishly related vision of Alzheimers in an aging couple (and at my age this work’s imagery manages to resonate with me in this way whether intentionally or not on the part of the author) – and I expect the ‘secret season’ will now become a general expression for the sort of way in which my wife and I may soon be running with the rabbits and mice in the moonlight… (1 Mar 12 – two hours later)


‘Jesus, what a place.’ / Jess called him.”

A gentle horror that packs an enormous punch. No mean feat.  A tale of childhood fears swaddled by mainly happy memories of the place where they first happened, fears that were safely (with no doubt some suitable humouring) stoppered away like a genie-loci … until now: with this book’s characteristic tussle with  motives. Reminds me of the same gentle, then ungentle, punch in the ‘Blurted’ story paralleling here the backstory of a once happy couple whose forestory is vaguely similar symbolically to the retrocausally  encroaching fears of Alzheimers embodied in the previous work.  The prose is simply but uncannily effective, its underlying complexities seething… (2 Mar 12 – 11.40 am gmt)


I’m afraid that, if this had been the first work I had read by this author, I possibly would not have read any more.  That would have been a great shame, because what I have already read in this book is high class weird fiction in my eyes.  This title story, meanwhile, seems to me to be muddled and melodramatic, with spells and curses and typecast relationships through inheritances and time-worn horror tropes.  It does, however, have some saving graces: there are a few great erstwhile-Jeffreysesque passages of prose (including one of the most wonderful descriptions of the moon I think I have ever read!); certain haunting elements of the orange grove scenario together with a slight fairy-tale ambiance all of which reminded me of one of my favourite ever books (‘Martin Pippin in the Apple Orchard’ by Eleanor Farjeon); hints of shape-shifting at one point which summon up a remarkably frightening scene with a web; and an often well-treated theme of ‘anger’ that can be factored into the aforementioned selfish/unselfish motive-tussles of this book…  Having listed those features, I’m now wondering whether, in hindsight, I enjoyed this story more than I thought I did! (2 Mar 12 – another 3 hours later)


Another story – like ‘The Secret Season’ – eternally re-readable through tantalisingly constructive failure to fathom.  A cafe with a cafe-owner eager to shut his doors this rainy evening, but dogged by customers. Two customers in particular who seem to be connected by indirect coincidences…   (2 Mar 12 – another 2 hours later)


…like that leap-year-day when I finished ‘Three Winters’ above?  This is a sequel to that work, or rather an overlapping point of view? I am afraid I gained little from this extra information and it actually seemed to endanger the integrity of the original work.  I am honestly of the opinion that all the works in this book before ‘The Haunted Grove’ made a very satisfactory gestalt, one that I have explained above up to that point. But there is much great writing throughout this whole book that makes me want to read a lot more by this author who, when on his top form as demonstrated here, has the precious ability to grapple, I sincerely believe, with a writing gear in the horror or weird fiction genre beyond the reach of most. (2 Mar 12 – another 90 minutes later)



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4 responses to “The Haunted Grove – Tim Jeffreys

  1. Pingback: My Real-Time Reviews | DF Lewis's Real-Time Reviews

  2. Pingback: Secret Europe | Line-Hawling 8510-2

  3. Pingback: BLACK HORSE and Other Strange Stories | Line-Hawling 8510-2

  4. Striking resonances between THREE WINTERS / A FALSE SPRING and Stephen King’s just published book THE WIND THROUGH THE KEYHOLE, see:

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