It’s always an honour and immense pleasure to launch a blog tour on publication day – but this tour is particularly special to me. I’m passionate about the writing of Carol Lovekin – her first published novel, Ghostbird, will always have a special place in my heart. It has been quite thrilling to follow the author’s progress as her second book gained form and shape, and the day has finally come: Snow Sisters is published today by one of my favourite small presses, Honno, and available in paperback and for kindle. And it’s absolutely everything I hoped it would be… and perhaps even a little more…
Two sisters, their grandmother’s old house and Angharad, the girl who cannot leave…
Verity and Meredith Pryce live with their fragile mother, Allegra, in an old house overlooking the west Wales coast. Gull House is their haven. It also groans with the weight of its dark past. When Meredith discovers an old sewing box in a disused attic and a collection of handstitched red flannel hearts, she unwittingly wakes up the ghost of Angharad, a Victorian child-woman harbouring a horrific secret. As Angharad gradually reveals her story to Meredith, her more pragmatic sister remains sceptical until Verity sees the ghost for herself on the eve of an unseasonal April snowstorm.
Forced by Allegra to abandon Gull House for London, Meredith struggles. Still haunted by Angharad and her unfinished story, hurt by what she sees as Verity’s acquiescence to their mother’s selfishness, Meredith drifts into a world of her own. And Verity isn’t sure she will be able to save her…
I’m really delighted to welcome author Carol Lovekin to Being Anne on the first day of the tour…
On publication day of my second novel, it’s a genuine delight to be hosted on Being Anne by one of my favourite book bloggers. Thank you, Anne for agreeing to start the tour for Snow Sisters.
Looking back, the eighteen months since my first novel came out have, like my little Ghostbird, flown by. I’m not sure I’ll ever get completely used to being published. Perhaps it’s because I’m old enough to still feel grateful for the fact that it happened at all. Being published is a privilege – doing so twice is another layer of validation. I remain indebted to Honno, the Welsh Women’s Press, for their continued trust in me and support for my writing.
To those of you who took the ghost of little Dora in Ghostbird to your hearts, here is Angharad, a ghost girl who dies in 1879. And the Snow Sisters themselves: Verity and Meredith Pryce who, one hundred years later, when they hear Angharad’s story and witness her grief, try to put things right.
I don’t very often include quotes from others in my posts, but this wonderful book has been endorsed pre-publication by three of my (other) favourite authors, and I really wanted to share them:
“This is a novel of magic, of potent spells, and of great beauty. Lovekin’s prose soars like the birds who see everything.” – Louise Beech
“Lyrical, evocative and crafted with magic, Carol Lovekin’s writing is utterly enchanting.” – Amanda Jennings
“A many-layered collage of women’s voices, shifting leaves and birdsong… A small world beautifully drawn.” – Su Bristow
And now it’s my turn. And I don’t quite know where to start. So let me begin with the writing itself. The imagery, the descriptions, the detail drawn from nature – they are just breath-taking in their beauty. This book took me almost a week to read – it deserved to have every carefully chosen word savoured, and there were times when its richness really felt like sensory overload. And I don’t, for one instant, mean that negatively – it’s only a particularly special writer who could possibly make me want to set a book aside for a while, to reflect on what I’ve read, to allow emotions to subside a little. There’s magic woven into this book – it’s there in the narrative, but it’s also there in the writing. There are images in this book that will long live with me – the sewing box, the red felt hearts, the blue garden with its mist and shifting shadows, the sea and forest, the natural world and the ever-prescient birds, and at its centre Gull Cottage itself.
There’s immense beauty in this book, but ugliness too. I’m still thinking about the mother, Allegra. Is she cruel, or just damaged? How can she show such emotional coldness to one of her children? Is she selfish and self-centred, or just desperate to be loved? And then there’s the sad story of Angharad – an anguish that goes on beyond death, a pain that can’t be assuaged.
The young sisters are just perfect – the sheer joy of creating snow angels, their wonderful relationship in the absence of their mother’s love, their shared experience of Angharad’s desolation and their ingenuity in trying to put things right. Their encounters with the raw grief of Angharad’s restless ghost are just magnificently done – their initial reactions those of children, their actions considerably more mature and measured. It’s a tribute to the author’s deft handling that there’s no struggle at all in suspending disbelief to handle the alien and unconventional – the ghost is as real to the reader as she is to the girls, her anguish palpable and heart-breaking.
I loved the grandmother Mared too. She is a superbly crafted emotional anchor for the whole book, a calm centre, a source of wisdom, a nurturing force.
And I haven’t really mentioned the story, have I? The present day scenes that punctuate it and shed light at its close – everything is just so perfectly balanced.
There are two more things I wanted to mention. The cover of this book is breath-takingly beautiful, and a perfect match for the book’s content – well done to Honno. You might choose to read the e-book – as I did – but this is a book you’ll want to own, to place on your shelves to share its beauty. And finally, in the acknowledgements, I found the author’s thanks for my support… writing this sublime deserves every iota of it, and considerably more.
My thanks to Honno for my reading e-copy and their support for the tour. And to Carol… just thank you, for everything…! Do please follow the other stops on the blog tour – many of the very best bloggers I know will be following me in sharing their thoughts.
About the author
Carol Lovekin was born in Warwickshire and has lived in Wales since 1979. She is inspired by the landscape of her adopted home and finds fiction the perfect vehicle for telling women’s collective stories.