Take a torch, the last to be lit, and follow the jostle of fat, spitting lights as the men and women of Neverness spread out along the gorse edge. Every year they gather while the girls shoot their arrows and the boys hunt them out. The air is riddled with spiteful shadows - the wounds and fears and furies of a village year. The gorse burning will smoke them out, cleanse the air for another season's turning.
On a remote and unforgiving island lies a village unlike any other. In Neverness a girl might be snatched by a water bull and dragged to his dark lair, and Jack Frost can take his chilling revenge on a jealous sister. A babe is born with a wing for an arm, and children ask their fortunes of an oracle ox.
The beliefs and rituals of the islanders conjure their own dark spirits, flying with the red kites at night or stalking lustful boys through the gorse maze. While the villagers live out their own tales, magic always lurks, blighting and blessing lives in equal measure.
Folk is a dark, sinuous and unforgettable debut which takes place over the course of one generation of islanders. As each chapter unfolds, the folklore of Neverness is as tangible as its rocky shore, its deep woods and its gorse-prickled headland. In this world remote from our time and place, the tales of the islanders interweave and overlap, cloaked in threat, twisting fates and changing lives.
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By Marzie on 11-02-18
A haunting series of interrelated short stories tells the reader the history of the small village of Neverness and its inhabitants who experience superstition, magic, love, and sorrow. The book begins and closes with a village tradition that is their own version of Beltane, a gorse-maze, and girls who shoot arrows into the maze for the young men of the village to find and be matched for a kiss or more. As the book opens, we meet the ill-fated Crab Skerry and at its close see the fate of the girl he had wanted to kiss, Madden, whose soul is woven by a spell with that of a soaring kite.
These are folktales about island folk, mixing classic British Isle fae entities like the water bull, similar to a kelpie, luring young women to a watery death, and simple people with their everyday lives on their farms and in a fishing community. Beyond the elements of familiar folklore, Gilbert has given us truly poignant characters with heartbreaking stories. Ervet and her beloved mawkins, Verlyn, a man with a wing, and his unrequited love for a girl named after a bird, Linnet. There are also images of memorable power like that of a boy named Finch, arms outstretched, covered in bees, green sap emerging from a scratch on his neck.
This is a rich an beautiful series of stories that read like a novel. Blending folklore and magical realism, it's a unique book to be savored.
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