S A Harris’s modern haunted house novel “Haverscroft” is a clever narrative published by SALT.


There seems to have been a resurgence of interest in writing about the supernatural recently – from the folk horror of Devil’s Day by Andrew Michael Hurley and Zoe Gilbert’s Folk to the Gothic extravaganzas of Sarah Perry’s Melmoth, readers are turning towards literature that gives them an escape from quotidian existence. Perhaps it’s because we live in unsettling times, but these dark stories seem to speak to us.

S A Harris’s debut novel Haverscroft, an attractive paperback published by Salt, takes a setting we’re all familiar with, the haunted house, and gives it a twenty-first-century spin. The protagonist, Kate Keeling, is reeling from the effects of a nervous breakdown. Once a happily married and capable lawyer, she is now seen as unreliable by her husband Mark. He has persuaded her to move from London with their twin children, Sophie and Tom, to Haverscroft House, a dilapidated country pile.

Mark thinks it will save their marriage, while she finds the house decidedly unwelcoming – a ‘creepy old place that makes my skin crawl’. No ghost story is complete without a cast of local characters and the story introduces a variety of them.

Kate learns from the unfriendly solicitor who sold them the house that Mrs Havers, the previous owner, has asked to meet them both. Mark has not told her about this, and Kate suspects he is keeping even more information from her. Mrs Havers also sends her a key to Haverscroft’s attic where Kate discovers cupboards full of children’s clothes from decades ago, and a mysterious locked box.

Kate takes on Mrs Havers’ cleaning lady Mrs Cooper, who reads fortunes in tea leaves, and gardener Richard Denning. Both seem to have a great deal of knowledge of the house and its inhabitants. Kate tries to understand more about the house’s previous owners while the house itself seems to become more and more threatening. Doors bang shut or lock unexpectedly, knocking sounds are heard in the attic and an old toy moves around the house by itself.

The story cleverly intertwines two narrative strands: Mark and Kate’s marital problems which cause her to distrust him, and the dark history of Haverscroft. Because Kate suffers from occasional fugue states, she isn’t sure at first if the supernatural activity going on around her, like the voices she hears in an empty bedroom, is real or in her imagination.

The atmosphere builds up beautifully as Kate investigates the locked box, which contains photographs and a diary, and finds out more about the tragic lives of the people who owned Haverscroft before Mrs Havers: a married couple, Edward and Helena Havers, and their child Freddie.

When she finally meets Mrs Havers, she discovers her relationship to Edward and Helena but doesn’t get all her questions answered. The violent history of the house becomes intertwined with the present, and Kate becomes fearful for her family’s safety.

The different narrative strands are well-handled, and the tension is maintained throughout until the story reaches its dramatic conclusion. Haverscroft is a well-plotted and very atmospheric novel which updates the ‘haunted house’ ghost story, giving the supernatural events a convincing domestic setting which increases their disturbing quality. This is a book to read with the lights on.

“Haverscroft” is available to buy from SALT publishing.


Tabitha Potts is a writer living in East London, which inspires much of her work. She has had several short stories published in print and online and was recently long-listed for the Sunderland University Short Story Award and Highly Commended for the Booker Prize at Birkbeck Competition. She loves reading books, looking at art and kickboxing.
January 15, 2020

Tabitha Potts reviews “Haverscroft” by S A Harris

S A Harris’s modern haunted house novel “Haverscroft” is a clever narrative published by SALT.
January 8, 2020

Exclusive: Interview with Phoebe Wynne, author of “Madam”

In her FIRST interview, Phoebe Wynne discusses her writing influences, writing practice and her journey to being published with Liz Bolton. Her novel “Madam” will be published in February 2021.
December 11, 2019

Miki Lentin reviews Deborah Levy’s “The Man Who Saw Everything”

“You are only significant if you are significant.”
December 4, 2019

Liz Bolton in conversation with Elizabeth Fremantle

Liz Bolton interviews Elizabeth Fremantle about a new novel and her writing process
November 20, 2019

Stella Klein interviews Toby Litt about his new novel Patience

Stella Klein interviews Toby Litt about his new novel Patience
October 3, 2019

Miki Lentin reviews Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli

Miki Lentin reviews Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli, published by 4th Estate and long-listed for the Booker Prize 2019.
September 11, 2019

Please Read This Leaflet Carefully reviewed by Angèle Eliane

Angèle Eliane reviews Please Read This Leaflet Carefully by Karen Havelin.
August 7, 2019

Judy Birkbeck discusses her novel with Samiha Hassan

Judy Birkbeck’s novel Behind the Mask is Nothing was published by Holland House and is an exploration of the abuses of power. Here she answers questions from Samiha Hassan who is currently studying English.
July 31, 2019

Jupiter Jones reviews Lucy Ellman’s novel “Ducks, Newburyport”

Lucy Ellman’s novel “Ducks, Newburyport” was published this month by Galley Beggar Press and has been long listed for the Booker Prize.
July 10, 2019

Tabitha Potts reviews new novel by Lucie McKnight Hardy

Tabitha Potts reviews Water Shall Refuse Them by Lucie McKnight Hardy and published by Dead Ink Press.
July 2, 2019

A London Literary Round-Up: June

Laurane Marchive gives her London Literary Round-up for June
June 12, 2019

Miki Lentin reviews Notes to Self: Essays by Emilie Pine

Miki Lentin reviews  Notes to Self: Essays by Emilie Pine
June 5, 2019

Late In The Day: An Interview with Tessa Hadley

Minna Lacey interviews Tessa Hadley about her new novel Late In The Day. Feature photo by Mark Vessey
May 22, 2019

Vanessa Onwuemezi wins The White Review Prize 2019

Vanessa Onwuemezi on winning the White Review Short Story Prize 2019.
May 15, 2019

100voicesfor100years project needs you!

Lena Rees speaks to Miranda Roszkowski on her project 100voicesfor100years.
May 8, 2019

The Brick Lane Bookshop Short Story Prize returns

Rosie Arrowsmith visits Brick Lane Bookshop to meet with the organisers and judges of its recently re-installed short story prize.
May 1, 2019

Poet Hannah Copley talks to Lauren Miller

Hannah Copley on writing, teaching and the multiplicity of a writer’s life.
April 30, 2019

A London Literary Round-Up: April

Laurane Marchive gives her London Literary Round-up for April
April 24, 2019

Mari Vindis attends the London Book Fair

Mari Vindis writes on the London Book Fair
April 17, 2019

Louise Hare investigates Riff Raff writing community

Louise Hare on the Riff Raff writing community.