This book has been on the shelf for a while. There’s a few up there of which I can’t recall where they came from. Perhaps they were bought, borrowed, appeared overnight, or were left behind by a friend. I do make an effort to slowly read my way through them, because you never know what you’ll discover. In this case, it was The Earth Hums In B Flat by Mari Strachan. Tucked behind an old thesaurus, I’m glad to have decided to give it a go, and here’s why.
There are no spoilers below!
The story goes. Set in the 1950’s, twelve year old Gwenni Morgan lives in a small Welsh village. She’s sweet, kind, and a little odd. When a neighbour goes missing, she decides to become a private investigator and solve the mystery. Her mother, strict and controlling, does everything to stop Gwenni as well as to halt her weird behaviour, which is apparently a paramount task. Of course, that doesn’t stop her, and aided by her wild imagination and charming oddity, she discovers more and more about the world around her in her search for answers whilst stirring the pot of conspiracy.
To put it simply, this book is about secrets. There’s a whole crowd of skeletons in the closet, and with so little room for more, it’s only a matter of time before the beans are spilled. Although there’s an incredible sense of family, and although it’s a small village where everyone seems to knows everything about everyone else, there’s a lot of mystery, and this is a story about the slow unravelling of dark pasts, and the consequences of inquiry.
Strachan’s writing is great. It’s poetic, vivid, and strongly weaved with real Welshness. The pace is steady and doesn’t fall into bad habits of repetition or staleness. As well, there were quite a few passages that were absolutely sublime, and all required a second read to relish the sound and fluidity. I would say that this is a book that could fall into the young adult category, but the issues of mental illness and social stigma, and how they’re handled, explores how difficult life can be, suited for the mature reader.
It’s not an easy task to portray the mind of a child. Whilst we have all been young, to replicate it isn’t straight forward. However, Gwenni’s naivety and innocent perspective of the world is brilliant, and as the story unfolds, it’s a refreshing break to learn it as she does. The dynamics between the family members are truly organic and immersive in every quirk. At times, it’s certainly funny, and at others, it does get dark. It should be said that whilst this book may not rock the cradle, it’ll bring a chill to the sense of security and comfort given to you in the opening chapters.
It makes this week’s recommendation because it does a great job of transporting you back to childhood, and allows you to feel again what it’s like to question everything, to see the world for all it’s beauty and simplicity. It’s a new adventure that funnels to a claustrophobic environment, where the clues are naturally stumbled upon, and the lives of the locals change drastically in the process. If you liked Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of The Dog In The Night Time, you’ll likely love this. It’s an easy read but nonetheless thoroughly endearing and delightful, with a side of uneasy company.