Review by Helen’s Reads
Weyward is a riveting and absorbing debut novel which tells the story of 3 generations of women living at different times, 5 centuries apart, all linked by blood, birth, and accusations of witchcraft. They also each have a real affinity with the natural world.
In 1619: Altha is on trial for witchcraft, accused of killing a local farmer. A natural healer, or “wise woman”, she is known for her uncanny connection with nature and animals and learned her skills from her mother.
1942: Violet, the daughter of the 9th Viscount of Kendall lives at Orton Hall and is more interested in collecting insects and climbing trees than in becoming the young lady her birth dictates, until a chain of shocking events changes her life forever.
2019: Kate flees London, and her abusive, violent, and controlling partner Simon. She heads for Cumbria and Weyward Cottage, which she inherited from her great-aunt Violet. Here, a secret lurks in the bones of the house, hidden ever since the witch-hunts of the 17th century, and this is where the interlinking stories of all 3 women ultimately will be revealed.
The storylines of these 3 women are woven together in alternating chapters, and the author moves the reader effortlessly and seamlessly between them, and their respective historical periods. The challenges faced by them individually, inform each other’s stories and are reflected within them. Over 500 years, and generations apart, each of them is subject to misogyny, abuse, and control, from both men and wider society. But they each meet these threats and challenges head on, finding their own strength and power within.
The themes of female empowerment, resilience, and a strong affinity with the natural world are very strong, in this feminist novel.
The characterisation is realistic and believable; it is incredibly well plotted and constructed; it is beautifully written with descriptions of the natural world and landscape which are vividly and exquisitely. Living in Cumbria, as I do, I was truly impressed by the creation of the sense of place within the novel.
Weyward is a brilliantly immersive novel, which is very hard to put down. The reader quickly becomes invested in the characters and their story, and the narrative finally leads them to a just and satisfying ending. The writing is extremely assured and it is hard to believe that it is in fact a debut. After such an impressive start, I will be very keen to read subsequent novels from Emilia Hart!
Available at Books Cumbria here