If it wasn’t haunted before she came to live there, after she died, Ty’r Cwmwl made room for her ghost. She brought magic with her.
And the house, having held its breath for years, knew it. Ida Llewellyn loses her job and her parents in the space of a few weeks and, thrown completely off course, she sets out for the Welsh house her father has left her. Ty’r Cwmwl is not at all welcoming despite the fact it looks inhabited, as if someone just left…
It is being cared for as a shrine by the daughter of the last tenant. Determined to scare off her old home’s new landlord, Heather Esyllt Morgan sides with the birds who terrify Ida and plots to evict her. The two girls battle with suspicion and fear before discovering that the secrets harboured by their thoughtless parents have grown rotten with time. Their broken hearts will only mend once they cast off the house and its history, and let go of the keepsakes that they treasure like childhood dreams.
I genuinely don’t know where to start with this review… Carol Lovekin stole a piece of my heart with Ghostbird, and she cemented my love of her writing with Snow Sisters… Now there’s Wild Spinning Girls and I’m just completely and utterly in awe!
I jumped at the chance to read Wild Spinning Girls without knowing much about it because I’m a huge fan and I know a Carol Lovekin novel will be stunning. When I read the opening pages and I saw what the novel was about I instantly felt a strong connection. We follow Ida, who is 29 years old and is told, somewhat out of the blue, that she is being made redundant from her beloved job in a book shop. Then soon after Ida’s parents die suddenly and she is rootless and lost. My mum died when I was 29, she was my only parent and honestly losing her pulled the rug completely from under me. I barely knew which way was up for quite a while. So I was reading this novel in tears at times remembering the pain of the early days of that loss and wishing I could reach into the pages of this book to Ida, to tell her that it does get easier in time.
‘Mothers aren’t supposed to die before we’re ready to manage without them.’ Ida said.
Ida soon learns about a house in Wales that her parents still owned but they hadn’t been there since Ida was five. She decides to go there and sort it out for sale but she’s dreading it. She knows her mum hated it there but she doesn’t really know why.
Her thick cardigan folded itself around her, like a pair of empty arms enhancing her loneliness, exacerbating her sense of disconnection from the person who had arrived here less than two weeks previously.
The house feels creepy, cold and unfriendly when Ida arrives. Dark is falling and the electric is off so she’s literally floundering and wondering what on earth to do. The house seems melancholy, there is a sense that it is waiting for something – I could feel that radiating from the page. This is a house that is haunted by secrets and sadness and also by the happiness that could have been had there and wasn’t. It is as if there is some kind of spell woven around this house and it had a very real effect on Ida, but also on me. It was as if the things Ida was feeling because of the house I was genuinely feeling too because of the poignant way it was all described in the novel.
‘[…] it’s the place, the house. It’s like living in a Bronte novel’.
‘Charlotte or Emily?’
Gradually we discover more about Ida’s mother and how she had been a famous ballerina but Ida was never able to reach her mother’s heights. She took up ballet as a child but an accident brought it all to an end. It caused real tension between mother and daughter but it never took away their love for each other. It made their relationship complex but the way that Ida holds on to her red ballet shoes shows how much she adored her mother, at the same time as the way she holds on to her injury shows the guilt she feels in how she, perhaps unconsciously, freed herself from the power of those same red shoes.
Then in walks Heather! A 17 year old who believes the house is hers because her mother rented it for them for many years. Heather’s mum has also recently died but this doesn’t make the two women find a connection, instead there is suspicion and tension from the start. Both are lost and in pain but they’re both struggling in their own ways and it seems like no one is going to be able to get through to either of them. Nor does it seem likely that they’ll find a way to resolve the impasse they find themselves in. Heather is feisty and strong-willed, she doesn’t see why she should yield her will to anyone and I loved this about her. Ida is the opposite; she is broken by all that has happened and she can’t see how she will get her life back on track. I was willing both of these women on, I wanted them to see the common ground and to find a way through.
Heather knew the only way to mend a heart as broken as hers was to find someone else who knew what a heart sounded like when it shattered.
Carol Lovekin weaves magic through her writing, she brings her readers into her stories in a way that no other writer does. I always feel bereft on finishing her novels because I never want them to end but I also always feel like my spirit has been shored up and healed in a way that was much needed. I found so much solace in Wild Spinning Girls, I could identify so much with both Ida and Heather. I really miss them now, I keep thinking about them and wondering how they are as if they are real people that I once knew.
There is a fierceness in young women: the wild spinning girls made of loss and grief and their mothers’ best dreams. Let loose it could tip the world off its axis.
I highlighted so many paragraphs as I was reading this novel because Carol Lovekin has such a special turn of phrase, and she weaves such beauty into each sentence. I kept stopping to re-read sections because I wanted to make sure I’d absorbed every bit of this story. I deliberately read slowly as I didn’t want to miss a single thing! The above quote is one of my favourites and this wild spinning girl is going to read those two sentences every time she ever doubts herself from now on!
Wild Spinning Girls truly is one of the best novels I’ve read in a long time, it has stolen my heart and will be taking pride of place on my bookcase. It is melancholy but also magical, it’s dark but it has hope and most of all it’s a stunning book that reminds you to find and then hold on to your power and strength. I’ve been writing and re-writing this review for days and I can’t do any kind of justice to the book. I just adored this novel more than I can say, I know it will be one of my favourite books of this year as I already want to re-read it. I highly recommend this one!
My thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours and Honno Books for my ecopy of this book and my blog tour invitation. All thoughts are my own.
Wild Spinning Girls is due to be published on 20 Feb and can be pre-ordered here.
You can follow the rest of this tour at the following blogs: