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 was chatting to a friend on Twitter about wanting to read books originally written in a different language and translated into English and she raised a very interesting point, that a countries literature often reflects that nations cultural vibe! I agree with her! For me Welsh novels can be lyrical and full of poetic images that reflect the nations love of literature, music and performance as celebrated in the National Eisteddfod.
So I started reading Wild Spinning Girls hoping it would be all these things and more, happily I can say it is!
In telling this story about loss, identity and family, it does so using language that is magical and full of images that capture the best elements of Welsh literature.
We have in Heather, a child brought up in the folklore of Wales, who has a connection to the land of her birth that feels intrinsic, she encapsulates that mythical repository of cultural wisdom of the natural world that flows through Celtic literature. Then in Ida, we have a young women who love of literature connects her to power of the written word, so important to Welsh identity, yet disconnection from the land she was born into, leaves her searching for a place she truly belongs, hiraeth, a home that maybe never was, hopefully into a land that welcomes her for who she is now.
The story is moving and is pervaded by the importance of the narrative and the characters within it. Told with a quiet self assurance, that celebrates the power of imagery and story telling, over the need for ‘drama’. In going on the journey with both Heather and Ida as they seek to free themselves from the past mistakes of their parents, you are part of a story about growing into the real you, removing the barriers that have held them back, freeing themselves from the constraints of secrets that are rotten at their core.
It is a novel that takes that connection to Welsh folklore and gives it a modern twist, in Heather, who has been taught the power of healing with herbs and plants by her mother, we have a character that refuses to let the pressure of the modern world crush her beliefs, but must find a way to use them to help, not exile herself from others. She is keeping those beliefs alive and as the novel progresses, must seek a path that connects the old ways, into our current search for more sustainable lifestyles. Ida’s journey is different, in that it seems set to go the other way, to discount from the modern world and embrace a life in which she can accept her sexuality and her love of art and culture.
It really is a joyful read and one full of the elements that makes literature and story telling so important to us all. It celebrates Welsh identity and weaves it into a story about the freedom to be who you are, while celebrating all the things that make you special. Ida and Heather’s story takes place in a small Welsh community, but the themes that make up their stories, affect us all.
You can purchase this book from Amazon
About the author
Carol Lovekin is a writer of stories, a feminist, published by Honno, the Welsh Women’s Press.
Her stories touch on the Welsh Gothic & its most powerful motif: the ghost. They concern the nature of magic & how it threads through the fabric of our lives. She explores possibilities: the fine line between the everyday & the time-shifting world of enchantment. Her books are also firmly rooted in reality. She writes about family relationships: how people, women in particular, respond to loss & how they survive. Her stories are set in Wales, where she has lived for several decades: a place whose legends & landscapes inform her writing.