Wild Spinning Girls by Carol Lovekin | @CarolLovekin @Honno @AnneCater #RandomThingsTours #WildSpinningGirls

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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?’

‘Both.’

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.

 

 

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#BookReview: Snow Sisters by @CarolLovekin @Honno #BlogTour

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About the Book

Two sisters, their grandmother’s old house and Angharad… the girl who cannot leave.

Meredith discovers a dusty sewing box in a disused attic. Once open the box releases the ghost of Angharad, a Victorian child-woman with a horrific secret she must share. Angharad slowly reveals her story to Meredith who fails to convince her more pragmatic sister of the visitations until Verity sees Angharad for herself on the eve of an unseasonal April snowstorm.

Forced by her flighty mother to abandon Gull House for London, Meredith struggles to settle, still haunted by Angharad and her little red flannel hearts. This time, Verity is not sure she will be able to save her…

Two parallel coming of age stories – one tragic, the other holding out the hope of salvation.

 

My Thoughts

I read Carol Lovekin’s novel Ghostbird last year and it now has a very special place in my heart. It was my favourite book of 2016 and is now my go-to book when I’m in need of solace so you can probably imagine just how much I’ve been looking forward to Snow Sisters. I was thrilled beyond words when I was invited to read an advance copy for the blog tour and I’m so happy to say that it exceeded all my (very high) expectations!

Snow Sisters is the story of Verity and Meredith Pryce. Verity is the elder sister and seems to be more grounded and more sure of how her future might look whereas Meredith is much more whimsical. She can’t seem to see a future beyond where she is now at her beloved Gull House surrounded by magic and fae.  Slowly Meredith realises she is being visited by the ghost of Angharad, a girl who lived in the house a hundred years ago.

This novel is so breathtakingly beautiful. Carol Lovekin has such a wonderful way of writing that draws you right in and makes you feel like you’re right inside the story she is weaving. From the very beginning of this book it felt like magic had been cast on me and I was living this life with these girls. The novel is very ethereal and otherworldly at times with the presence of Angharad and the sense of magic around Gull House, and at it’s heart it’s also a gorgeous and moving story about the bond between two sisters.

She was made from air and impulse and she hung a fishing net outside her bedroom window to catch falling stars.

This is very much a novel about spirited women and girls who are trying to find their way in life, and also the ways in which so many women can find themselves sidelined in their own lives and made invisible like a ghostly presence. I loved that we saw flashes of spirit in Angharad in 1879 but then heartbreakingly life beats her down to a point where she can no longer find a way back, but those earlier moments of spirit really made me think of Meredith, and Allegra to a degree. Allegra is very single-minded and when she decides on a path in life she follows it at all cost regardless of the people around her. She is a mass of contradictions – she mocks Verity’s growing interest in feminism and yet will have a go at her because she is too passive in life. Meredith seemed like such an emotionally fragile girl in the early part of this book and it seemed that when Angharad first appeared to her that her spirit might overtake Meredith and overshadow her completely as Meredith seems to retreat into herself and begins to fade away. In the end it felt like the two girls, one hundred years apart, seemed somehow destined to come together, to converge, to try and make things right.

She leaned on her handlebars afraid she might cry. It isn’t that children don’t understand adult feelings or motives. They understand them only too well. It’s because children don’t have the words their powerless. I want my mother to be superior to us, the way mothers are supposed to be.

This novel is also very much about mothers and daughters and the relationships that run through the generations. Angharad’s mother seemed to believe what her daughter told her in the words she couldn’t say and yet she was unable to stop what would happen to her. She was a prisoner of her time, of her situation and of the men around her. Allegra Pryce appears to be really cold-hearted towards her oldest daughter, perhaps because she reminds her so much of the girls’ father who left her, but as the novel went on I found myself more intrigued by her. I think she was a damaged soul who just couldn’t find the solace that others could, she was a lost spirit herself and seemed to always be looking for a home, just like the ghost of Angharad. It felt like Allegra had spent her adult like searching for a man who could give her the love and adoration her father had given her up until his death, as once he died she just floundered and has been floundering ever since. Even as an adult she seeks to blame her mother for leaving her, and the anger seems too much for her to cope with but she’s like a small child looking for someone to notice her, to notice her pain. I just wanted her to step up and not hurt her children irreparably due to her being so blindsided by her own needs but I could understand that she was possibly just too broken.

Whilst I felt sympathy for Allegra, I couldn’t help but be angry at the way her inability to deal with her emotions wrought damage on her daughters, and her selfish nature hurt them both very badly. I adored the relationship Verity and Meredith had with their Grandmother though – she was more a mum to them and was the person who did the nurturing they both needed. All the magic that is woven around the garden at Gull House also felt like it was literally there but was also a metaphor of love and security that Nain had invested in the girls. It reminded me of how safe I always felt with my lovely Nan.

The bond between Verity and Meredith was wonderful to read. I loved the way that Verity was more grounded in reality but was happy to being the person her sister needed her to be. She allowed herself to be open to the idea of Angharad because her sister was so adamant that she was real and needed their help. It was also lovely to see how Meredith loved her sister just as much and while knew that she was her mother’s favourite she never once used that against Verity. These two girls have such a strong bond and it felt like they would get through anything together. It gave me such a sense of hope that things might just work out okay in the end, in the future long after this novel has ended. This quote brought such a lump to my throat because it says everything you need to know about Verity’s love for Meredith:

My sister never doubted the presence of magic and when she was five years old she told me she could grow flowers from her fingertips. Her solemn conviction was such, I half believed her.

This is a novel that almost defies genre – it’s part mystery, part ghost story and part family drama; it’s a novel about people trying to find their place in the world and it’s magical and lyrical and heartbreakingly beautiful. Snow Sisters is a novel to savour; it’s a story to really take your time with and to give yourself the chance to really appreciate what an incredible story it is. I turned the final page of this novel feeling like my life had been enriched in so many ways.

Snow Sisters is a stunningly beautiful novel that will weave it’s magic around you and it will hold you in its spell until long after you’ve finished reading it. I don’t think this book is going to let me go for a very long time, and I really don’t want it too. I want to stay held in the magic of that special garden in Gull House. I know that this will be a novel, like Ghostbird, that I return to time and time again and I can already say for certain that Snow Sisters will be on my top books of the year list! Go buy a copy right now, I promise you won’t regret it.

I received a copy of Snow Sisters from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Snow Sisters is out now!

 

About the Author

carol lovekin copyright janey stevens

My name is Carol Lovekin. I’m a writer of stories, a feminist & a flâneuse. I’m published by Honno, the Welsh Women’s Press. My first novel, Ghostbird was published in March 2016. It was a Guardian Readers’ Choice for 2016 and in the same year was longlisted for the Not the Booker Prize.

Snow Sisters, my second novel, was published on 21 September 2017. It has been chosen by the Welsh Books Council as their October Book of the Month (for independent shops.)

My stories concern the nature of magic and how it threads through the fabric of our lives. I explore possibilities: the fine line between the everyday and the world of enchantment. They are also firmly rooted in reality. I write about family relationships: how people, women in particular, respond to loss and how they survive. My books are set in Wales, where I’ve lived for decades: a place whose legends and landscapes inform my writing.

I write because I can’t tap-dance on a tightrope. Or juggle. And because I’d like to leave something attached to whatever exists after I’m gone. And where publishing is concerned, I’m the living proof that it’s never too late. If you have written a story you feel passionate about, one you believe in, persevere and don’t give up.

 

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