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  • Barbara Copperthwaite

Review: DARK MATTER, Michelle Paver

Dark Matter, a ghost story, by Michelle Paver. Review by Barbara Copperthwaite

‘A spine-tingling atmosphere that feels both scarily large and claustrophobically close’


A terrifying 1930s ghost story set in the haunting wilderness of the far north.

January 1937. Clouds of war are gathering over a fogbound London. Twenty-eight year old Jack is poor, lonely and desperate to change his life. So when he's offered the chance to join an Arctic expedition, he jumps at it. Spirits are high as the ship leaves Norway: five men and eight huskies, crossing the Barents Sea by the light of the midnight sun. At last they reach the remote, uninhabited bay where they will camp for the next year. Gruhuken.

But the Arctic summer is brief. As night returns to claim the land, Jack feels a creeping unease. One by one, his companions are forced to leave. He faces a stark choice. Stay or go. Soon he will see the last of the sun, as the polar night engulfs the camp in months of darkness. Soon he will reach the point of no return - when the sea will freeze, making escape impossible.

And Gruhuken is not uninhabited. Jack is not alone. Something walks there in the dark...


The unique setting for this ghost story is what attracted to me to it initially. Michele Paver uses the eerie location of the uninhabited Arctic to create a spine-tingling atmosphere that feels both scarily large and claustrophobically close. The descriptions are, pardon the pun, hauntingly excellent, from the ice which pops and cracks constantly as though talking to itself, to the cold beauty of the Northern Lights; from the bone-chilling constant darkness of an Arctic winter where the sun never peeps over the horizon, to the creeping certainty that someone or something is out there, watching, waiting. This is not a book where much happens, instead it plays on the emotions, unsettling the reader and giving them goosebumps of anticipation. A beautifully-written, old-fashioned ghost story, I thoroughly enjoyed Dark Matter.

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