Owls. That was the pattern formed by the plates hidden upstairs. But these owls vanished when they were copied onto paper. With each owl that fades from the page, another layer of magic is awoken, forming a net that encloses the valley. As the web tightens, will Alison, Roger and Gwyn be able to free themselves, or are they the latest three in the valley’s history to be forced to relive it?
There was something timeless about this story. Maybe it was the setting: a traditional, insular village in a Welsh valley, the surrounding hills so high that the newcomers feel suffocated by them.
Maybe it was the way the story played out: replaying a tale that doesn’t just form a part of the valley’s history but also shapes the lives of every one of its inhabitants.
Maybe it was the turns of phrase; the cadence of some chapters that evoked the rich mythological history of the country.
One central theme that I was painfully aware of throughout was the difference between the Welsh and the English mentalities. The tensions brought on by this were subtle but constantly present. Whether intentionally or not, I felt like an unwelcome cultural invader- peering through another’s windows on the world, not understanding the significance or value of what I was seeing. And not being particularly welcome either…
As with ‘Death and the Penguin‘, I felt as through I was (frustratingly) too ignorant of the Mabinogion to fully appreciate the richness of the story threads running through the tale. As with ‘Death and the Penguin’, I also did not feel as though I was the intended audience for this story.
Perhaps because of this, I wholeheartedly recommend this book to any fans of Welsh culture or to any English person interested in having their preconceptions of Wales challenged.
I read this book for Rose City Reader’s European Reading Challenge. This book is set in Wales and counts towards the ‘UK’ section of the challenge.