I finally finished Wild Fire the last of The Shetland series by Ann Cleeves. I enjoyed this one more than the others, it seemed to move along at a faster pace than the previous 7 yet finished in a strange bland way. Jimmy Perez seems to have finally accepted Fran’s death and is willing to move away from his beloved place way up in the north of Scotland to make a life with his new love. I’m not sure it will work out – he being her subordinate but as I said, with it being the last in the series there’ll be no more murders for him to solve.
Now to the other two.
The Brimstone Wedding is a newish/oldish novel (1996) written by Barbara Vine aka Ruth Rendell. Set in modern day Essex but with flashbacks to post WW2
Unlike the other residents of Middleton Hall, Stella is smart and elegant and in control. She keeps her secrets to herself, revealing nothing of her past. Only Jenny, her young care assistant seems aware that her heart harbours a dark painful mystery. And only she can prevent Stella from carrying it to the grave.
The Good People, Hannah Kent’s second novel (2016). Set in 1825, in a remote valley lying between the mountains of south-west Ireland, near the Flesk River of Killarney.
Nôra Leahy has lost her daughter and her husband in the same year, and now is burdened with the care of her four year old grandson……Unable to care for the child alone, Nôra hires a fourteen year old servant girl, Mary, who soon hears the whispers in the valley about the blasted creature causing grief to fall upon the widow’s house.
They sound so different yet are alike. Both full of expressions thoughts customs and deeds belonging to another time yet still retained in some lives today.
These are some of the modern girl’s handed down from her Nan:-
- Don’t take dead people’s clothes because the clothes of the dead won’t wear long – they fret for the person who owned them
- Blood must be shed at a funeral or the dead person’s ghost will walk
- There’s wearing blue, it’s a lucky colour and provides protection but don’t wear green because that’s what the fairies wear Touching wood for luck, picking ferns for luck and the throwing salt over the shoulder – to blind the devil so he does you no harm.
Whereas the thoughts and beliefs and way of life of Nôra and others in the valley would have been handed down for many generations.
A big mention in the book is given to the ritual of the wake – before the funeral not after.
Throwing ashes at the outside door to banish those (the fairies) that would stop the soul passing into another world.
A young pregnant woman is told she shouldn’t be in a corpse house (house with a dead person inside) so is told ‘you have the right to leave. Before you breathe death in and infect your child. Put salt in your pocket and leave’
As well as salt; charcoal and cinders/ashes play a big part in protecting the mind, body and the spirit.
But what I really liked about this book were all the little sayings and words of wisdom:-
- A man’s mouth often broke his nose.
- Your tongue collects no dust with all the stories you tell.
- It’s a lonely place without a man’s shirt on the washing line
- Constant company wears out its welcome
- What ‘that’ one knows at cow-time the whole countryside will be repeating before moon-rise.
And the one that had me in tears because I could see and hear my Dad saying it
- I’m sorry for your loss.
Then there’s the way family/kin are described:-
Blood tied. Bound to her by marriage.
“I’m a relation of the widow. My man is the brother of Nôra’s dead sister’s husband”
Plus a sentiment that is often mentioned/ spoken about these days:-
An old woman without a man is the next best thing to a ghost.. No one needs her, folks are afraid of her, but mostly she isn’t seen.
So here it is early Monday morning again – just where ‘did’ last week go – I’m sitting here with my coffee thinking about, musing, pondering or maybe that should be wondering what I’ll be reading this month – April.
What about you – what’s on your bookshelf reading list for April?