The Twisted Tree by Frank Baker
Trade Paperback – Valancourt – 2021 – 235 pages
The “twisted tree” is a blackthorn branch, picked by Tansy Penderil, a naive young Cornish girl, on the same day she meets the handsome but diabolical Roger Chailey in the woods for the first time. But it is not the only souvenir of their encounter: eighteen years later, Tansy’s son, David, is the living image of Chailey, sharing not only his father’s good looks but also his immoral ways. David’s resemblance to her first lover triggers powerful feelings in Tansy and leads to a strange relationship between mother and son, as well as a terrible and shocking conclusion . . .
The Twisted Tree(1935) is the extremely rare first novel by Frank Baker (1908-1983), best known for his avian apocalypse novel The Birds (1936) and his classic fantasy Miss Hargreaves(1940). A story that one critic said might have been “written by the ghost of D. H. Lawrence seated on the grave of Mary Webb,” Baker’s brooding Gothic drama is an important rediscovery that remains a gripping and powerful read.