A story of wise women, lost mothers and changed lives, this atmospheric novel breathes a strange story of the power of women in the change of lives and a sense of place. The fear of birds and of the unknown dominate this book, as Ida discovers that not is all that it seems in a strange house that she has just inherited. This impressive book from Honno, the Welsh Women’s Press, is full of the weather and the unique nature of the remote countryside of Wales. The house itself becomes a character as each room suggests a terror and unexplained presence. Lovekin creates the idea of lost mothers, changed lives and unexplained forces from the depths of countryside and the unknown which happens in the depth of grief. This is very much a story of women who discover a lot about themselves and others. I found it a special and unique reading experience, and I was glad to have the opportunity to read and review it.
Ida was brought up to follow her mother as a ballet dancer, until a lapse in concentration ends her career. She then finds work in a bookshop, until it closes. Her parents are about to go to Paris on a second honeymoon, but a freak accident means that they are both killed. Bereaved and without a plan, Ida decides to visit a remote cottage in Wales where she was born which she has been left to her by her father. Unaccustomed to life in Wales, she finds the deserted house a great challenge as there is no lighting, heating or furniture in the house, but many birds, noises and other disturbing events. The most disturbing is the arrival of Heather, an unusual girl who is the daughter of the previous tenant, Olwen Morgan. Having retained the keys and knowing the area well, Heather is able to slip into the house and make demands about Ida’s residence there. Her words and actions are deeply disturbing, as she suggests that her mother, though dead, has not truly left the house.A Wise Woman, she was known locally for her knowledge of herbs and spells. Heather is a disturbance which Ida cannot cope with, especially as she is still in the throes of grief and guilt about her own mother’s death. As she tries to establish herself in the house, Ida encounters the locals who are vary in their reaction to her. As it seems supernatural forces at work, she tries to unlock the secrets of the house, Ty’r Cwmwl, the House of the Clouds.
The impetus of this novel is impressively mystifying. It has much to say about the power of women and a wisdom which defies explanation. The element of ballet is important as it suggests one of the impossible ambitions that a mother can have of her daughter. The research into herbs and plants, knowledge of birds and landscape is obviously impressive, but it is never allowed to get in the way of the story. The characters of Ida and Heather are vividly realised and the whole book is a strong testament to the power of women