Gwenni, an imaginative, precocious child on the verge of adolescence, narrates this post-WWII novel about life events in a small Welsh town, and her family’s own emerging dark secrets. Unusually perceptive with exceptional strength-of-will, she has one foot firmly in the innocence of childhood and another testing the shaky ground of adulthood. The essence of her being is deeply rooted in the expansive world of her own imagination, which allows us to experience the complexities of her inner world while she deals with the vicissitudes of the outer one. We care more and more about her and her world with each page we turn.
As adult readers, our inclination is to view the unfolding sad and sometimes harsh life stories in this book with the mature wisdom of the “long-view” some of us have gained after living enough years. Fortunately, for us, Gwenni’s strong presence interrupts this, and compels us experience her world as she views it. As I read, I entered her skin, breathing in her world as if it was my own world, my own breath. Her perceptions and observations became, at times, startlingly familiar. I realized, through her, that I was re-experiencing aspects of my own pre-adolescent Weltanschauung, attuned to a world that hums and a spirit that flies. Wow, when a book can do that, it’s definitely worth reading.