‘When the night is dark and the wind blows hard and shadows overwhelm you – there are always stories.’
This beautiful story is about stories themselves: how our need and understanding of the stories we hear changes through the prism of our own experiences. It’s about how we make of our lives our own stories.
It’s about the hopes and dreams and foibles of utterly believable characters, Bridie, Sian, Rhys, Ma and Alf. And it’s about, I think, the tides tugging members of families, failed marriages, blended families, past traumas, grief, and the dead remembered, and how all these shape ourselves.
If you also like folklore and Celtic mysticism, and enjoy a meticulously researched historical novel, you too will love this fine novel.
In 1841 Bridie Stewart voyages in steerage with her mother and stepfather from London to the colony of Port Phillip, Victoria. (From the Blurb) ‘Desperate to save her childhood, fifteen-year-old Bridie is determined to smuggle a notebook filled with her father’s fairy tales to the far side of the world. When Rhys Bevan, a soft-voiced young storyteller .. realises Bridie is hiding something, a magical friendship is born. But Rhys has his own secrets.’
If there wasn’t a single girl in the colony over the age of sixteen that meant girls were courting at the age of fifteen – her age .. There would be no time for wishes then, Ma said, no time for stories – only a long dark future without music or magic or fairies.”
I had to read on, had to know: is that dreary future all she can expect, all that anyone can expect in the end as the stark hardships of life strike home? Are stories and songs all nonsense really, and the world drained of any kind of magic?
Certain novels strike different readers in different ways of course, as all stories must. For me, and I do not say this lightly, the voyage I took in the company of these people was near perfection. It was all that I want to experience when I read.
I recommend also reading, and hearing, the fascinating support material on Elizabeth Jane Corbett’s website. You learn how this novel evolved in the authors mind, a journey that even led her to learn the tongue of the Welsh. You can hear how the Welsh words that appear in the story are pronounced, and also hear, hauntingly sung by Karla Quadara, The Song of Ianto’s Grief.
You are at Baffled Bear Books, the blog of Mark, guardian,chocolate-fetcher and blundering typist for Mawson Bear, Ponderer of Baffling Things and one of this bright world’s few published bears.