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Friday, 19 June 2020

‘Long Shadows’ by Thorne Moore

Published by FeedARead,
2 March 2018.
ISBN: 978—178876281-6 (PB)

Llys y Garn is a mansion house in Pembrokeshire.  It stands on ground that has been inhabited for centuries and altered over time to reflect changes in architectural fashion and assert the power and wealth of its, often influential and always male, owners.  The building also attests to the desire of human beings to tame nature; a desire that is called into question by the author’s description of the rooks who have watched with indifference as Llys y Garn has changed over time.  To these gregarious creatures, who return annually to their lofty rookeries in the tall trees, the house is:

“transitory…intrusive, shape-shifting…it isn’t permanent like them.”

The anthropocentric view of existence is thus denounced at the very beginning of the book which goes on to expose and impugn patriarchy as it has played out over several centuries.  The book consists of three novelettes that feature women who live at Llys y Garn and whose lives are defined by status and gender in a society that has routinely preferred men over women, rich over poor. 

The first tale, The Good Servant, is set in 1884 and features Eluned Skeel who rises from maid to housekeeper at Llys y Garn.  Although achieving relative success in her employment, Eluned never feels secure, one mistake could lead to dismissal.  When her master takes in his nephew, Cyril Lawson, Eluned is moved by the young boy’s plight.  She nurtures and protects the unwanted interloper, but as time goes on his behaviour threatens to undo her. 

The Witch begins in 1662, two years after The Restoration of the British monarchy.  This second story begins as Sir Devereux Powell’s wife gives birth to baby Elizabeth.  After their daughter’s birth her parents depart for another of the knight’s properties, Beveril Hall.  Devereux and his wife are glad to leave the children at Llys y Garn, to be brought up by their grandmother, Dame Cecily.  When Elizabeth reaches maturity, she will join her parents at Beveril Hall where her father intends to arrange a profitable marriage for her.  Over the years, though, Elizabeth grows to love her childhood home and is loath to submit to her powerful father’s expectations.  She determines to remain at Llys y Garn, but her intransigence has fatal consequences.

Finally, we are transported to 1308 where we meet another strong woman, Angharad, living at Llys y Garn and anxious about her upcoming wedding day.  The Dragon Slayer, is a story of friendship and faith as Angharad seeks to avoid an early marriage and the jeopardy of childbirth.  Her brother urges her to obey their father:

“Women must endure and suffer.  It is ordained by God, as judgement upon the sin of our first mother.  Learn patience.”

Angharad, challenges this orthodoxy.  She longs for the freedom she experiences when wandering through the green Welsh valley near her home.  However, danger lurks for girls and women who are audacious enough to question the gendered constraints of domesticity.

Long Shadows is the second in a two-book series and works perfectly as a stand-alone.  The novel is beautifully written and draws the reader into carefully crafted stories that fascinate and discomfort in equal measure.  Highly recommended.
Reviewer: Dot Marshall-Gent

Thorne Moore grew up in Luton, near London, but has lived in Pembrokeshire in West Wales for the last 35 years. She writes psychological crime, or domestic noir, with an historical twist, focusing on the cause and consequences of crimes rather than on the details of the crimes themselves. A Time For Silence, set in Pembrokeshire, was published by Honno in 2012. It was followed by Motherlove and The Unravelling, set partly in a fictional version of Luton. Shadows, published by Endeavour in 2017, is set in an old house in Pembrokeshire, and is paired with Long Shadows, which explained the history and mysteries of the same house from Medieval times to the late Victorian period.

Dot Marshall-Gent worked in the emergency services for twenty years first as a police officer, then as a paramedic and finally as a fire control officer before graduating from King’s College, London as a teacher of English in her mid-forties.  She completed a M.A. in Special and Inclusive Education at the Institute of Education, London and now teaches part-time and writes mainly about educational issues.  Dot sings jazz and country music and plays guitar, banjo and piano as well as being addicted to reading mystery and crime fiction.  

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