Spoiler: 5/5 stars!! Loved it! One of my favourite reads this year!
Emilia Hart's debut novel Weyward is a compelling tapestry of resilience, magic, and the enduring strength of women. Set across three distinct timelines—1619, 1942, and 2019—Hart masterfully interweaves the lives of three women, each bound by the legacy of Weyward Cottage and its enigmatic history.
The novel opens with a gripping escape in 2019 as Kate flees to Weyward Cottage, a place that promises refuge from her abusive past. Hart's portrayal of Kate is nuanced and relatable, capturing the complexities of a woman seeking to rebuild her life amidst the shadows of trauma. The cottage, with its ivy-clad walls and secret-laden garden, emerges not just as a setting but as a character in its own right—mysterious and quietly powerful.
In 1619, we meet Altha, accused of murder and witchcraft, a narrative that delves deep into the chilling realities of witch hunts. Hart's depiction of Altha is particularly striking, showcasing a woman whose knowledge of nature is both her salvation and her curse. The author's exploration of the historical persecution of 'unusual' women is both heartbreaking and infuriating, shedding light on a dark chapter of history with sensitivity and depth.
Violet's story in 1942 adds another layer to this intricate novel. Trapped in societal expectations and family secrets, Violet's longing for knowledge and understanding is palpable. Hart deftly captures the stifling atmosphere of the time, where a woman's desire for more than domesticity was often viewed with suspicion. The mystery surrounding Violet's mother, tied to the word 'weyward,' adds a haunting element to her tale.
What makes Weyward truly remarkable is how Hart ties these three narratives together, weaving a story of female empowerment across centuries. The natural world plays a pivotal role, not just as a backdrop but as a source of strength and transformation. Hart's prose is both lyrical and sharp, with a keen eye for detail that brings each era to life.
Weyward is a stunning debut, a celebration of the resilience and complexity of women. Emilia Hart has crafted a novel that is both a gripping tale of survival and a thoughtful reflection on the historical and personal challenges women face. It's a must-read for those who love historical fiction with a touch of magic, and a testament to the enduring power of the female spirit.
Here is the blurb for Weyward as found on Amazon:
I am a Weyward, and wild inside.
2019: Under cover of darkness, Kate flees London for ramshackle Weyward Cottage, inherited from a great-aunt she barely remembers. With its tumbling ivy and overgrown garden, the cottage is worlds away from the abusive partner who tormented Kate. But she suspects that her great-aunt had a secret. One that lurks in the bones of the cottage, hidden ever since the witch-hunts of the 17th century.
1619: Altha is awaiting trial for the murder of a local farmer who was stampeded to death by his herd. When Altha was a girl, her mother taught her their magic, a kind not rooted in spell casting but in a deep knowledge of the natural world. But unusual women have always been deemed dangerous, and as the evidence of witchcraft is laid out against Altha, she knows it will take all her powers to maintain her freedom.
1942: As World War II rages, Violet is trapped in her family's grand, crumbling estate. Straitjacketed by societal convention, she longs for the robust education her brother receives––and for her mother, long deceased, who was rumored to have gone mad before her death. The only traces Violet has of her are a locket bearing the initial W and the word weyward scratched into the baseboard of her bedroom.
Weaving together the stories of three extraordinary women across five centuries, Emilia Hart's Weyward is an astonishing debut, and an enthralling novel of female resilience.