Before I tell you about this wonderful new book, I wish to celebrate the fact that I’ve read more this month than I have in a long time. I’ve struggled to focus on novels for a while now, and in most cases it was very slow going. This month, however, things have changed for the better. I’ve devoured FIVE novels and I’m in the middle of yet another. (A re-read of an old favorite, but that still counts, right?) It’s a small thing to celebrate, but it means a lot to me. Perhaps my sluggish brain is perking up a bit?
And now it is with great pleasure that I present WEYWARD…
From the publisher [slightly compressed by me]:
2019: Under cover of darkness, Kate flees London for ramshackle Weyward Cottage, inherited from a great aunt she barely remembers. With its tumbling ivy and overgrown garden, the cottage is worlds away from the abusive partner who tormented [her]..
1619: Altha is awaiting trial for the murder of a local farmer who was stampeded to death by his herd. As a girl, Altha’s mother taught her their magic, a kind not rooted in spell casting but in a deep knowledge of the natural world.
1942: As World War II rages, Violet is trapped in her family’s grand, crumbling estate. Straitjacketed by societal convention, she longs for the robust education her brother receives––and for her mother, long deceased, who was rumored to have gone mad before her death.
Weaving together the stories of three extraordinary women across five centuries, Emilia Hart’s Weyward is an enthralling novel of female resilience and the transformative power of the natural world.
When I first thought of how I’d describe this novel to others, I heard myself saying “Well, it’s about three generations of witches…” but that’s not right at all. Truly it’s about three women who have an affinity for nature and all its fragile creatures, including humans (particularly females) who are exploited and/or abused.
What I loved about this book:
You know I’m a sucker for a good Gothic story, and this novel featured many hallmarks of the genre. I also was intrigued by the female characters’ sympathy with nature — so very Romantic — and the fact that our heroines often seemed to prefer insects and animals to their own family members! The main antagonist in this story is male fear — specifically, the fear of losing control and/or being humiliated in front of other men or “society” in general. All that said, it’s just a ripping good tale and I couldn’t put it down. It is quite dark at times, but there is light and love at the end.
A favorite passage (from Violet’s perspective):
She had reached her special tree: a silver beech that Dinsdale, the gardener, said was hundreds or years old. Violet could hear it humming with life behind her: the weevils searching for its cool sap; the ladybug trembling on its leaves; the damselflies, moths, and finches fitting through its branches. She held out her hand and a damselfly came to rest of her palm, its wings glittering in the sunlight. Golden warmth spread through her.
“Ugh,” said Graham, who had finally caught up to her. “How can you let that thing touch you like that? Squash it!”
I’m not going to squash it, Graham,” said Violet. “It has as much right to exist as you or I do. And look, it’s so pretty. The wings are rather like crystals, don’t you think?”
“You’re not normal,” said Graham, backing away. “With your insect obsession. Father doesn’t think so, either.”
Now for tea:
It seemed fitting to highlight an herbal mixture that includes ingredients used by healers for centuries. Today’s tea is a combination of Chamomile Calm and Immune Boost, both from Tea Palace in London. (They ship to the U.S. and rather quickly!) Chamomile Calm is a mixture of Orange Peel, Chamomile Flowers, Rose Petals, and Lavender — “ingredients that are known for their calming and anti-inflammatory qualities.” Immune Boost contains Orange Peel Pieces, Lemon Myrtle, Echinacea, Ginger, and Ginseng. The two teas blend quite well with each other, and the combination is especially nice with a generous dollop of honey — perfect for a sore throat.