Review by Heather Haunert
The Didsbury Witch by Tess Humphrey is the third book in the Hunky Dory series, a collection of short stories that unravels the tales of a brother and sister duo through the 1960s and 1970s. Each of the books is written to be read as a standalone, so reading this particular story out of order with the others seems natural.
This short story begins with the protagonist, nine-year-old Joyce. She believes an eccentric young woman that wears all black with long flowing black hair and pointy boots is a witch in the town of Didsbury. And she’s not alone. All the children and adults think the exact same thing. People move out of the way when the “witch” walks down the street. They refuse to make eye contact or let their children near her. The secrecy surrounding her only creates more of a fascination for Joyce.
As the story unfolds, Joyce’s brother Tristan tells her the “witch” is actually their cousin. Of course Joyce does not believe him, so she asks her mother who conveniently evades the question. Joyce and Tristan develop a plan to surprise their cousin at home on Halloween. Not only do they surprise her, but they are also in for quite a few surprises themselves! Their cousin has a house full of men, animal skulls, and they are smoking what presumably is weed. At first the children are apprehensive, but then they start to feel more relaxed and even enjoy themselves. When things start to get a little out of hand and they spot a severed cow’s head on the dining table, Joyce and Tristan realize they need to get out as quickly as possible.
When I was introduced to this book as an option to review, it was presented within the horror genre. I definitely would not categorize this selection as horror. It was not the least bit terrifying. It read exactly like what it was: a little girl’s telling of a “scary” tale about an eccentric woman she thought was a witch. There were a few times the story was difficult to follow. It seemed to go off tangent but then was able to make its way back to the original story. There are also some minor errors in the writing. The story and characters did not leave a lasting impression. Overall, it was a quick read that was able to hold my attention to the end.