The Hollow Tree
After losing her hand in a tragic accident, Rachel is plagued by vivid nightmares of a hollow tree, and a hand reaching from it, begging her for help. Terrified that she is going mad, Rachel experiences phantom sensations of leaves, trees, and finally a hand that grasps hers and pulls a young woman into Rachel’s world. She has no idea of who she is, but Rachel can’t help but think of the local legend of Oak Mary, the corpse of a woman found hidden in a hollow tree, and who was never identified. Three myths have grown up around the body; was she a spy, a prostitute or a murdered gypsy? Rachel is desperate to learn the truth, but darker forces are at work. For a rule has been broken, and Mary is in a world where she doesn’t belong.
James Brogden describes in his afterword of a true to life mystery about a woman’s skeleton that was found inside the trunk of a hollow elm in Hagley Wood, Worcestershire, England in 1944. The woman’s true identity was never discovered and neither was that of the person who murdered her.
The book begins with the introduction to Rachel, a young woman who tragically lost her hand in a tragic boating accident and starts having horrific nightmares and delusions. The way Rachel copes with here loss is handled remarkably. The way she puts on a brave face, or how she’s able to joke about things, all the while deeply knowing that she is still an amputee whose life is forever changed.
Soon after Rachels amputation, she begins having terrifying nightmares about a woman who has been trapped inside of a dead and hollow oak tree. In these dreams, she constantly sees vivid images of the hollow tree and a hand stretching out to her, begging Rachel to help. Rachel also experiences phantom sensations in her lost hand. These sensations along with the nightmares feel increasingly real and eventually begin hearing a voice saying “Not dead!”
Rachel doesn’t know who the woman in her nightmares is but ends up thinking about the mysterious dead woman with every waking moment. She becomes obsessed with finding out the truth but there are dark and sinister forces at work that try to keep her from that of which she needs to know. At one point the visions get so bad that Rachel starts to experience delusions, even while she is awake. Her lost hand is also bothering her and feels sure it is still there at times beckoning her to a darker world.
The book goes on to show us how Sergeant Nicholas Raleigh and Corporal Rhys Hughes were investigating a bomb that never exploded and how they decide to just blow it up. Not long after that, they notice how the explosion has caused a huge split to open up inside an old, dead oak tree. Upon a closer look, they find the remains of a young woman who seemed to be buried alive inside the tree.
The Hollow Tree is chilling and very creepy, and I think what makes it even more terrifying is the fact that it’s based on real events. The whole inspiration behind this novel is about the story of Bella in the Wych Elm:
“On April 18, 1943, four teenage boys playing soccer decided to go for a walk in Hagley Woods, a forested area in Worcestershire. There, one of them wandered up to a witch hazel tree, a looming, storybook-sinister growth that was sometimes referred to as a wych elm. The boy, the 15-year-old Bob Farmer, caught sight of a white protrusion from its hollow trunk that he thought was a bird’s nest. Peering closer, he realized it was a human skull.”
The connection to real events only adds macabre depth and in-your-face realism to this fictional story. To me, all of the characters in the book are totally likable and believable. The Hollow Tree is a darker fantasy novel for fans who love the dark and unsettling stories.
If you’re looking for a horror book that will scare the hell out of you, but in a different style to many other books out there, then please do yourself a favor and get this one… I highly recommend The Hollow Tree by James Brogden!
About the book Author
James Brogden is the author of The Narrows, Tourmaline and The Realt. His horror and fantasy stories have appeared in anthologies and periodicals ranging from The Big Issue to the British Fantasy Society Award-winning Alchemy Press. He spent many years living in Australia but now lives in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire with his wife and two daughters.
Title: The Hollow Tree
Author: James Brodgen
Published Date: March 13, 2018
Genre: Horror, Thriller, Mystery
Publisher: Titan Books
Format: Paperback, Kindle
Pages: 483 pages
Reviewed by: Sarah Hopkins
Our Rating: 4.2 /5
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