Tales of faerie, and a story of personal redemption
Personal: As I said two blogs ago, Dr Kathryn Starnes and I will be presenting the next instalment of our folktale evenings in Glossop on 9th June. This time our theme will be tales of faerie… and fairy-tales. A number of tales about fairy-folk have been collected from around the Peak District and belief in these creatures from the faerie realm remained fairly widespread into (at least!) the nineteenth century in some isolated places. Both upper-class fairies (who spent/spend most of their time dancing and singing) and working-class ones, hobs, could be immensely helpful but sometimes dangerous, often mischievous and always unpredictable. We’ll tell stories illustrating all these characteristics.
What we usually mean by “fairy-tales” don’t always involve denizens of the faerie realm. Think of the old favourites – Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and the ghastly horror-story Hansel and Gretel – and you’ll see what I mean. In the Peak District we have a variant of one story of this type, the only variant of this particular ancient, widespread tale ever collected from the U.K. We’ll tell that story, too!
Review: The narrator-protagonist of Clare Stevens’s Blue Tide Rising, Amy Blue, is a young woman with a damaged past and, when the story opens in a Manchester slum, a damaged present. Ms Stevens gives us a vivid picture of that environment – squalid, hopeless, potentially dangerous, but with residents showing a measure of care for each other – and she portrays Amy’s appalling mental condition. Then, into Amy’s drug-impaired consciousness, steps a mysterious young man who comes and goes inexplicably and knows far more about her than anyone ought. This visitor elicits her back-story and launches her into a prospective new life on a seaside farm, Môr Tawel, in Anglesea, home of the tragedy-afflicted and partially fragmented Lloyd family.
As Amy becomes increasingly absorbed into her farming, gardening and camp-supervising work at Môr Tawel and into the Lloyd family, she starts to come to terms with her own distressing past and begins to heal mentally. A significant part of this positive development comes from her burgeoning but initially secret relationship with the Lloyds’ mostly-absent son, Adam. But there’s a price to pay: the guardian spirit whose influence took her from slum to farm, hopelessness to hope, wants her to do something in return: to discover the truth about a death years earlier that was a major part of the Lloyds’ tragedy.
Blue Tide Rising is a highly readable, original and well-constructed story with a sympathetic protagonist and a pleasing blending of genres (romance, ghost story, crime story…), unusually accomplished for a debut novel. I thoroughly enjoyed it. My negative comments are minor: perhaps it could have been trimmed a little – it’s quite a long book – and although Ms Stevens proved herself accomplished in building up tension, she often allowed it to dissipate too rapidly, so the reader doesn’t have a prolonged edge-of-the-seat experience.
That’s nit-picking. Let’s just say that if I see another novel by Clare Stevens, I’ll want to read it.
Clare Stevens, Blue Tide Rising, Inspired Quill, 2019; ISBN: 978-1908600813
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