Sometimes a book resonates with an emotional response you didn’t expect,
but it draws you in and you fall in love – Carol Lovekin’s Ghostbird does just that.
I don’t often blog about books, the last times I did were The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss, and Nobody Told Me: Love in the Time of Dementia by S. R. Karfelt and I have to be enchanted or moved before it hits these pages. My reading genres are eclectic, I like a bit of everything, but I fall heavily for beautifully written fantasy, a little romance, and quirky magic.
I was browsing my books and read the caption on the reverse of Ghostbird from Rebecca Mascull who said ‘Carol Lovekin’s prose is full of beautifully strange poetry.’ and I began reading.
This is the tale of Cadi, who doesn’t know who she is. She’s never been told anything about her father, she can taste the cloying secrets, and she is determined to uncover and break the spells about her. Her mother, Violet, is distant and lost, and her aunt, Lili, is bound by a promise she desperately wants to break.
The Hopkins women are well known in their little Welsh village, and they are surrounded by a cloak of mystery, flowers, magic, and a little bit of local scandal.
Carol Lovekin’s writing enthralled me, from beginning to end, and I truly did fall in love. She writes with poetic leaning, creating beauty and an enticing story. This is my kind of writing, with description that made me feel like I inhabited Cadi and Lili’s lives. The story has an ethereal quality and this is even more prevalent with the inclusion of the ghostbird of the title. This book unravels the secrets regarding the Hopkins women with a little myth and magic along the way.
The story of Blodeuwedd, from the Mabinogion, is referenced throughout, something I loved having studied the Four Branches of the Mabinogion with my daughter last year. This meant I was already up to speed with Blodeuwedd’s tragic story.
I asked Ghostbird’s author, Carol, about including the story of Blodeuwedd and how it had inspired her:
‘The idea for Ghostbird was a slow burner. I read the myth of Blodeuwedd (from the Mabinogion) in the early 80s and was immediately struck by the notion that her fate: to be turned into a bird, was a curse. As an owl, Blodeuwedd could surely find her freedom by flying away? It was yet another woman’s story begging to be retold from her perspective. So many legends and myths are of their time (and written by men) and by definition, patriarchal.
The idea stayed with me until, years later it re-emerged as the backstory to Ghostbird. At first I planned for the ghost’s voice to be incidental, albeit relevant. It was my astute editor who insisted, the ghost had to play a more prominent role. It was a joy to take the bones of the myth and turn it into the soundtrack to my modern ghost story. And in the process, to discover, that’s what I write: ghost stories!’
When I first read Blodeuwedd’s story I’d come to a very similar conclusion – despite the fact that being turned into an owl was essentially a punishment, it seemed to me to be a poor punishment, as it meant she finally had freedom. She’d been created without thought to who she was, and made for someone else’s pleasure, and rebelling against that had caused retribution, but to me she was given freedom and final liberty.
The use of myth and legend within fiction is something that inspires me. My current work is based on a myth, but a legend of my own writing. I resonated with Carol’s words about most old fairytales and myths having been written by men with suffering women within the stories, so writing my own legend, which you can find in A Symphony of Dragons, meant creating a woman resilient enough to carry the myth on her own. The resulting legend, threads through The Seren Stone Chronicles which I am currently enjoying writing.
I loved Ghostbird, because Cadi’s story echoed similar themes I’d explored in my own books. Beneath the Rainbow and Beneath the Distant Star both dealt with grief and loss, and mother daughter relationships, and Beneath the Old Oak spoke of family secrets. Ghostbird moved in different circles, with beauty, grace, and fierce women determined to protect and discover who they are. This is a book that will stay with me, for its magic, emotion, and tender charm.
Carol Lovekin is published by Honno a Welsh Women’s Press committed to giving opportunities for talented women in Wales to see their work in print. Carol’s stories reflect her love of the landscape and mythology of Wales. She is a committed feminist and has always found fiction the perfect vehicle for telling women’s collective stories. She began writing with a view to publication in her late fifties, having ‘suffered from arrested development for far too long.’ She now writes to keep up.
Ghostbird is her debut novel and Snow Sisters is her second book.
My parting words for Ghostbird are that so often I read sentences that just spoke to me, that described my own feelings, my own experiences, and it’s not often that an author can climb inside your head and touch you. This book touched my heart, the vulnerable bits and the happy bits.
Please visit her blog for further information and links.