I recently read Joyce’s ‘The Silent Land’ and said, “Why haven’t I read any of this author’s work before?” I still don’t know! I picked this up next – and it’s even better than ‘The Silent Land.’
Set in the 1960’s, in rural England, it deftly draws the strange line of culture clash between old-fashioned ways of life and the incursion of the modern world.
The protagonist is a young woman, apprentice to a traditional midwife. Her learning has been herb-lore and beliefs called superstition, and although she has her loyal customers, business is hurting now that pre-natal care is provided by the National Health Service.
The traditional midwife also provides abortions, though…
And when a young woman dies, tensions in the village come to a head…
Things aren’t helped by the commune of free-love hippies who’ve taken over the adjoining farm, and are also regarded with deep suspicion by most of the villages.
What unfolds is a tale that, yes, is on the edge of fantasy, containing magic and the unexplained, but is first and foremost a tale of people, beliefs, and ways of life.
I absolutely loved it.