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Sunday, 23 August 2020

‘The Covenant’ by Thorne Moore

Published by Honno,
20 August 2020.
ISBN: 978-1-912905-23-2 (PB)

History, they say, is written by the victors. That is often true of the kind of history that deals with wars and invasions, and it’s hard to know to what extent the way it’s described by later generations resembles what actually happened. But what of the more everyday kind? The history of real families living out their lives. Stories get passed down through generations; reputations are preserved or destroyed, events are skewed to put people in a good or bad light, and sometimes names are erased altogether.

In A Time for Silence, Thorne Moore showed how entire episodes can be wiped from memory, and when they eventually surface again it’s far from clear what really did take place. Her latest novel, The Covenant, is a prequel to those events; it explores similar themes, and also offers some insight into how the same characters were shaped and their later actions foreshadowed.

Like A Time for Silence, The Covenant is not a conventional murder mystery. Unexplained deaths take place in both, but not as puzzling incidents to be investigated, and no perpetrators are brought to justice in any accepted sense. But as an exploration of the way hardship and tragedy can twist and pervert the most well-meaning personality, this meticulously detailed and highly readable slice of domestic history grabs the attention and holds it right down to the last page.

The Covenant opens with the discovery of a body in 1919 and backtracks to show what led to the corpse’s demise. It takes place in and around a small farm in rural Pembrokeshire; the story traces family life at Cwmderwen, home of the Owens, who hold the tenancy and have what Thomas Owen, head of the household, calls a covenant in blood with the land.

At the centre of the story is Leah, the youngest daughter, who reluctantly becomes a linchpin when first her brother then her mother die. Her own dreams die too, as she is thrust into holding together both family and farm for the ultimate benefit of her nephew John.

Thorne Moore has created not only a family who live, breathe, quarrel and survive against the odds like any in the real world, but also an entire community with its contrasts and similarities, virtues and vices, riches and poverty, joy and despair. The privation of Cwmderwen is set against the relative luxury of neighbouring Castell Mawr; like the village of Llanolwen and later the bustling streets of Haverfordwest, they come to vivid life and seem to go on existing when the story ends.

The death signalled at the beginning may be surprising, but it also seems inevitable; Leah’s story and that of her family lead inexorably to tragedy, albeit with a gleam of hope. One thing is certain: long before that final drama, this tough, feisty Welshwoman will have found her way into any reader’s heart. Imagine a working-class version of Downton Abbey’s Lady Edith; you’ll root for her, and want more than anything for something good to happen which will turn her despair to happiness.

Will it happen? Read the book and see. In fact, read it anyway. You’ll be glad you did.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

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.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives in Oxfordshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

1 comment:

  1. Apologies that I didn't see this at the time. Thank you, Lynne!