Today I am thrilled to be on the blog tour for Ghostbird by Carol Lovekin and I’m happy to be able to share my review of this fabulous novel and I also have a lovely Q&A to share with you.
Hi Carol, please tell my blog readers a little bit about yourself.
My home is in the beautiful countryside of West Wales. I share a small flat with a small cat. She and I look out over the hills where, some mornings, when the mist overlays the view, I could imagine the Avalon barge emerging through the mist. When I’m not writing, I’m generally reading; I swim twice a week and love walking. I’m a committed feminist and like most writers, a nosy-parker and always carry a notebook! One of my dear friends is my co-conspirator: we are the only members of the smallest writing group in Wales. We meet once a week to brainstorm and share our writing progress.
How did you first come to be a writer?
I don’t necessarily subscribe to the myth of the ‘tortured artist’ who is incomplete without her writing; I do know it’s an activity I’d find hard to set aside. As a child I was an early free-reader as opposed to one able to handle her numbers. (I still have to take my shoes off to count to eleven!) Words made far more sense to me than figures and making things up, the way the writers of the books I read did, seemed like a lot more fun. Writing is one of the ways children learn to express themselves and how we all start out.
There are dim drawers in my study inhabited by dusty spiders who guard the remnants of my previous efforts and who are tasked with never letting them see the light of day. They’re part of my process but in the early days I adopted a somewhat laissez-faire approach to my writing; maybe because I thought there was plenty of time. It wasn’t until I was considerably older and a lot wiser that I decided to treat my writing with more respect and aim for publication.
What is your book Ghostbird about?
It concerns, Cadi Hopkins, a young girl in the dark about her past. No one will tell her the truth about her father or her baby sister, both of whom died just before she was born. Her mother deals with her grief in a state of isolated silence; her aunt is caught in the middle. The myth of Blodeuwedd – a character from the ancient Welsh legend, The Mabinogion – runs through the story. When Cadi begins her search for the truth, the ghost of her little sister wakes up and old secrets surface.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Via the word birds? Inside my head, aided and abetted by the landscape I live in? From my dreams? All of the above and who knows where else. Inspiration comes from all manner of sources and if you conflate inspiration and ideas it becomes an impossible question to answer albeit a fascinating one to ponder! Inspiration and an idea never comes from nowhere. It can be as simple as a name or an image, a line from a song, an old memory or a half-forgotten dream. I sometimes forget to be honest, and it doesn’t matter. Once the idea is there, the inspiration is irrelevant. What matters is, something is working and the story follows.
What is your writing routine?
I’m an Aquarian, Hayley, and I like a good plan! I aim to be at my computer by ten o’clock and to work for four hours minimum. I don’t beat myself up if I can’t manage this. Not writing is a thing I never refer to as writer’s block. If the writing stalls, I edit; or I walk and think, lie in the bath and think (a good place for light bulb moments!) Or I read a book and pretty soon, I’m writing again.
What’s your favourite book that you’ve read this year?
It’s been a brilliant year for new books thus far. I can’t, in all honesty confine my answer to one. I began the year reading The Night Watch by Sarah Waters which for personal reasons was very special. Someone Else’s Skin by Sarah Hilary blew my mind and Song of the Sea Maid by Rebecca Mascull impressed me more than I can say. I was fortunate to be sent a proof copy of This Must Be The Place by the astonishingly talented Maggie O’Farrell who is one of my favourite authors. If you push me, I’ll say that one.
What are you reading at the moment?
A Year of Marvellous Ways by Sarah Winman. I read her first book, When God Was a Rabbit and loved it; my expectation for this second one was high. I am not being disappointed.
Is there a question that you wish an interviewer would ask that you’ve never been asked? What’s your answer to that question?
That in itself is a great question! People always ask writers what they write and rarely why they do. The clichéd answer is a variation on, ‘It’s who I am’ but it’s the easy one and a given, surely? The flippant answer is I write because I can’t juggle or play the tuba. The more serious one is, I’m not done yet and I’d like to leave something attached to whatever exists after I’m gone. And also, because when I tested myself and discovered I could write, it felt like a precious gift.
How can people connect with you on social media?
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions.
Someone needs to be forgiven. Someone needs to forgive.
Nothing hurts like not knowing who you are.
Nobody will tell Cadi anything about her father and her sister. Her mother Violet believes she can only cope with the past by never talking about it. Lili, Cadi’s aunt, is stuck in the middle, bound by a promise she shouldn’t have made. But this summer, Cadi is determined to find out the truth.
In a world of hauntings and magic, in a village where it rains throughout August, as Cadi starts on her search, the secrets and the ghosts begin to wake up. None of the Hopkins women will be able to escape them.
Ghostbird is one of the most exquisitely beautiful books that I’ve read in a really long time. It is written in such a way that I wanted to read it as slowly as I could savour every aspect of the story and to make it last as long as possible, I never wanted it to end.
This novel has an almost dream-like quality to it and the writing is so evocative, I could feel the dampness in the air and I could smell the rain as it was falling in the novel. I feel like I’ve been to the Hopkins’ family home and to the lake, I can picture them so vividly in my head. I can’t remember another novel that I’ve read in recent times where I felt like I was actually inside it, feeling everything. It is as if the magical nature of the novel has cast its own spell over me.
The complex relationship between the three females in this novel is fascinating. The idea of secrecy between two out of three and whether it’s ever okay to keep the secrets, and whether it’s ever okay to share someone else’s secret.
‘It doesn’t matter whose fault it is. We’re all in it now: dancing the same old dance, tripping over each other’s bloody red shoes’
The dynamic between Lily, Violet and Cadi was so believable; it was at times very tense to the point it radiated off the page and at other times, particularly between Lily and Cadi, the strong bond between them was clear. Relationships between women are often very taut, and especially so in this instance when Violet and Lily are sisters-in-law, not blood relatives, but still stuck living next door to each other, and Cadi who is Violet’s daughter but the relationship between them is strained and Cadi feels closer to her Aunt Lily. The past is haunting the three of them – two are haunted by what they know and one by what no one will tell her.
I adore Lovekin’s turns of phrase throughout this novel. She is very creative with how her sentences are put together and with the words she uses. The writing has such a poetic and lyrical quality.
‘She smelled of roses and secrets…’
I love the idea that a person can smell of secrets, that they are holding a feeling inside them that you sense so strongly it’s as if you can smell it. Wonderful!
‘She possessed a look of otherness, as if her eyes saw too far.’
This line resonated so strongly with me. It’s incredibly moving the idea that someone sees too far, that they are so trapped by how haunting the future feels that they can’t fully embrace living in the now.
I had to pause many times whilst reading this book to re-read a sentence or two because I really wanted to make sure I absorbed the wonderful language used. There are so many sentences and passages in this novel that I highlighted because they were simply beautiful and I never want to forget them. The following line genuinely made me feel very emotional and it’s one of my favourite sentences in the novel:
‘…in August, when it rained so hard the drains overflowed, good dreams were washed away and no one could tell if you were crying’.
I rated this novel 5 out of 5 and I honestly can’t recommend it highly enough. As I said at the start of my review it is exquisitely beautiful – there aren’t enough superlatives to describe it; it’s simply a book not to be missed!
Ghostbird will now have pride of my place on my all-time favourites bookcase, both on my blog and in my home. My words cannot express how wonderful this novel is, but I can honestly say that it is a book I will treasure and one I all absolutely re-vist time and time again!
About the Author
Carol Lovekin was born in Warwickshire. She has Irish blood and a Welsh heart, and has lived in mid Wales for 36 years. She has worked as a cleaner, a freelance journalist, a counsellor, a legal secretary and a shop assistant. She began writing with a view to publication in her late fifties has published short stories, reviews and is a prolific letter writer. She has been blogging for over nine years. Ghostbird is her first traditionally published novel.