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Weyward by Emilia Hart - Review

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

I bought this book in Waterstones just because I liked the sound of it. It was on buy one get one half price and I had a voucher from my birthday, so I got four books for about £30. I picked this up because I really want to read all four of them and am hoping to get them soon! 

This book has three strands of stories, and I enjoyed them all equally. The oldest part is set in 1619 when a woman called Altha Weyward is on trial at Lancaster Castle, accused of witchcraft. She is just twenty one years old and her strands are basically her diary. She grew up with just her mother, and they were the local 'wise women' - helping to heal the sick and so on. Altha's childhood friend is Grace, but when they are thirteen, Grace's mother Anna dies, and her dad blames Altha's mother. The two girls are no longer friends and it is now Grace who stands as a prosecution witness after the death of her husband John. Altha is definitely a witch - a weyward woman - but she and her mother have learnt to hide it because of the witch hunting that is going on. They live in Cumbria but Altha is taken to Lancaster, which really did have witch trials in the seventeenth century. I liked this blending of truth and fiction. 

The next oldest past is set in 1942. Violet is sixteen years old and lives at Orton Hall in Cumbria with her strict father and her brother, Graham. Graham is away at Harrow most of the time, and Violet is never allowed to leave the gardens of the hall. She is obsessed with nature - she can hear the flies and the clicks of her pet spider - but her father won't educate her and just wants her to marry well. He doesn't want her to turn out 'like her mother', who died when she and Graham were just tiny. Their cousin Frederick is coming to visit, and it becomes obvious that Violet's father wants to match the two of them. Violet isn't a witch - is she? 

The third strand is set in the current day and concerns Kate, Violet's great niece. Violet dies and leaves Kate her tiny cottage in Cumbria - Weyward Cottage. Kate has been there only once, when Graham died when she was a small child. Kate is in a relationship in London with Simon. He is abusive towards her - he tracks her phone, he hits her, he rapes her - and now she's pregnant. She didn't tell him that she had been left the cottage, so on discovering she is pregnant and unwilling to let Simon abuse the baby, she takes her car and drives up to Cumbria. There she begins to rebuild her life. It's obvious she has a lot of trauma because of the abuse and because of what happened to her dad when she was young. She has no idea about this history of her family, but she can discover it all in the tumbledown cottage. 

I really liked the book. I liked all three women and the different but difficult circumstances they have all found themselves in. Each period was really well written, too. Mostly the men are terrible but I did really like Graham, too - he's a bit clueless to begin with but he comes through for his sister at the end. I liked the magic realism within; witches are real and can do strange things, if they just know how to harness their power. I'm giving this five out of five. 

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