11 September 2009

The Earth Hums in B Flat

by Mari Strachan

Text Publishing. Adult Other. Paperback, rrp $32.95

Guest Reviewer - Anastasia Gonis

Gwenni is good and kind; a curious but oddly innocent child. She has Out of Body Experiences and flies only at night now. That’s when she hears the song of the Earth. She leaves her everyday world with its complexities and sometimes incomprehensible happenings behind along with her difficult sister Bethan, who always succeeds in making Gwenni’s life miserable.
Gwenni prefers the natural world (which has become a second skin to her) to the adult world she views. For adults say and do things she can’t translate in her child’s mind. Things she constantly questions, but never receives satisfactory answers to. She is absolute about protecting all life; a calling which frequently gets her into trouble.

Her closest friend, Alwenna, is far more mature than Gwenni. When Alwenna suddenly grows out of the friendship, Gwenni is left to decipher the reasons for the sudden and drastic change between them.

Guto Wern is another of Gwenni’s friends with whom she spends a lot of time. He’s was dropped by his mother as a baby and is ‘funny in the head’. A fact totally lost on the child. She also adores Mrs Evans, the teacher whose two daughters she frequently minds. But she fears Mr Evans, who is plagued by the black dog.

So much is learnt about the villagers’ lives: their superstitions, the secret happenings, and the sacrifices made to protect the innocent. All this information seeps out through Gwenni’s observations, and the other children’s dialogue. So do the terrifying, underlying events that are unspoken but remain there between the lines for the reader to recognise, and to catch their breath as each secret is unravelled.

This is a finely crafted book with fantastic characters and a murder mystery set in the Welsh countryside. It addresses many confronting issues such as family abuse, alcoholism, mental illness, and childhood innocence.


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