#Review: The Haven by Amanda Jennings @MandaJJennings @HQstories #publicationday #psychfiction #suspense #TheHaven

By | March 17, 2022

An unusual visit to the darker side for me today, and an absolute pleasure to share my publication day review of The Haven by Amanda Jennings: published by HQ today as an e-book on all major platforms, in hardcover, and as an audiobook, the paperback will follow on 21st July. My thanks to the publishers for my advance reading copy, provided via netgalley.

It’s far, far too long since I read one of Amanda’s books – her last, The Storm, was published while I was in the midst of whatever personal crisis I was in the midst of at the time (and I really must remember to catch up with it – the reviews I saw, much as expected, were wonderful). I first discovered her writing way back in 2014 with The Judas Scar, in the days when “dark, emotional and hard-hitting” (the quote’s from my review – you can read it again here) was my reading of choice. and I’ve loved her ever since. When people ask me about my favourite books, I unfailingly mention In Her Wake – its stunning depiction of grief and loss has never been bettered in any book I’ve since read, and it was accompanied by a totally compelling story, quite beautifully written (you can read my review again here). And I also loved The Cliff House, her first book for HQ – moving and emotional, edgy and unsettling, and again with writing that took my breath away (you’ll find my review here). In more recent years, my reading tastes have changed – but I desperately wanted to find out if Amanda’s writing could still have the power to move me, and I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to find out…

It was meant to be paradise…


Winterfall Farm, spectacular and remote, stands over Bodmin Moor. Wanting an escape from the constraints of conventional life, Kit and Tara move to the isolated smallholding with their daughter, Skye, and a group of friends. Living off-grid and working the land, they soon begin to enjoy the fruits of their labour amid the breathtaking beauty and freedom of the moor.


At first this new way of life seems too good to be true, but when their charismatic leader, Jeremy, returns from a mysterious trip to the city with Dani, a young runaway, fractures begin to appear. As winter approaches, and with it cold weather and dark nights, Jeremy’s behaviour becomes increasingly erratic. Rules are imposed, the outside world is shunned, and when he brings a second girl back to the farm, tensions quickly reach breaking point with devastating consequences…


The Haven is the compelling new novel from Amanda Jennings, author of The Cliff House.

I’ve noticed that other early reviews of this book have focused almost entirely on the story after it moves to Winterfall Farm, but I’d just like to linger a little on the book’s earlier chapters – the family complexities that bring Kit and Tara together, Jeremy a significant other to their relationship. One of the author’s strengths has always been her exceptional characterisation – while the couple’s chosen lifestyle wasn’t something I found particularly easy to identify with, the emotional issues around their family relationships are never anything but searingly real, and at times acutely painful.

And that strength in characterisation is perhaps even more striking when the group – the blurb calls them “group of friends”, but their diversity and differing backgrounds makes it rather more complicated than that – take up the opportunity to live off-grid at the farmhouse on the wilds of Bodmin Moor. The relationships between them are fascinating, and Kit and Tara’s own relationship continues to play out and develop – with the added joy and complication of young daughter Skye, and the idyllic childhood their new lifestyle offers her – against the testing early days of self-sufficient and communal living.

The writing – always taut and spare, every word carefully chosen and loaded with meaning – moves from the excitement of their new adventure (and it’s joyful and rather wonderful in the summer sunshine – I was ready to don my rainbow clothing, tie ribbons on my dreads, and travel to join them) to the point where the tears in the fabric of their new lives begin to become evident. The whole idea of complete self-sufficiency is an intoxicating one – but it doesn’t prevent them craving a hot bath or a working heating system when the golden sunny days are over, or the availability of conventional medicine rather than the dubious contents of Mary’s cupboard in the kitchen.

At first, the equilibrium of the group is disturbed by the arrival of Dani – little more than a child, with a disturbing and emotional back story of her own of domestic violence and life on the streets – causing ripples and more than a touch of conflict. And then Jeremy’s behaviour becomes a cause of concern, when he begins to emerge – slowly and insidiously – as the collective’s leader, imposing his ideas on the group, his behaviour increasingly bizarre. There’s a steady and inexorable escalation in tension – palpable as it builds via a series of twists and turns to a stunning climax, followed by a calmer (and particularly satisfying) rounding off of the story in the present day.

The writing is, as always, quite wonderful. I very much liked the three voices who told the story – Tara and Dani in the first person, Kit in the third person so keeping you always a little removed from his thoughts and feelings. And there were other characters in the collective – every one of them a well-drawn individual – that I rather took to my heart. The setting is vividly detailed and recreated – as well as the descriptions the author unfailingly excels at, the book is filled with moments I felt I was part of. I also thought the story was perfectly paced – the paving of the way into the story, the brief idyll, then becoming increasingly claustrophobic as the tension and darkness builds and the cracks begin to appear.

In essence, the story is about the impossibility of creating Utopia – once you add people, and human nature comes into play, it’s doomed to failure. So you always rather know how the adventure is likely to end – but experiencing the steps along the way made this book a thoroughly compelling read, and I was entirely engaged throughout by the complexity of its characters and the emotional aspects of their journey. An unforgettable read – and one I’d highly recommend.

About the author (from Amazon author page)

I love anything with a dark vein and secrets which affect families, and my books tend to fall into the psychological suspense category. My new book is a bit different. The Haven doesn’t have any hidden secrets, but instead looks at the gradual collapse of a a dream – a utopia – and focuses on characters and their interactions, all set against the spectacular and atmospheric landscape of Bodmin Moor in Cornwall. The Storm, In Her Wake and The Cliff House, and also all set in Cornwall, in Newlyn, St Ives, and Sennen respectively. Cornwall is truly where my heart truly lies! My mother’s side of the family is from Penzance and I have many blissful memories of long summers spent here. I am never happier than when I’m beside the sea, though I’m also fond of a mountain, especially when it’s got snow on it.

When I’m not beside the sea or up a mountain or sitting at my desk, you can usually find me chatting on the radio as a regular guest on BBC Berkshire’s weekly Book Club, or loitering on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. I love meeting and engaging with readers, whether that’s on social media, or at libraries, book clubs and literary festivals. If you see me out and about at an event do say hello! You can find more information on my webpage.

4 thoughts on “#Review: The Haven by Amanda Jennings @MandaJJennings @HQstories #publicationday #psychfiction #suspense #TheHaven

  1. Eva

    Fabulous review, Anne! If it weren’t already on my list, it definitely would be now.

    1. Anne Post author

      Thanks Eva – I do hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did…

  2. Kate Ryder

    I love Amanda Jennings’ books. Her writing appeals to the darker side of mine and I’ve followed her eversince I happened across ‘In Her Wake’. As I’m getting ever deeper into my WIP I’ve treated myself to the audio version of ‘The Haven’ (to give my eyes a rest!) and can’t wait to start listening to what I know is going to be a compelling tale, and as I live a stone’s throw from the setting, maybe I will get into the car and do a bit of location stalking!!!

  3. Anne Post author

    Best of luck with your location stalking – I notice some photos on Amanda’s twitter feed today that might help! And yes, despite indulging my dark side far less often in recent years, I’ve always been a tremendous fan of her writing… hope you enjoy this one as much as I did x

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