A young woman haunted by ghosts, magic and long-kept family secrets, in a new novel from the author of the Wales Book of the Year 21 shortlisted Wild Spinning Girls.

I give you fair warning, if you’re planning on lying to me, don’t look me in the eye. It’s May’s 17th birthday – making the air tingle with a tension she doesn’t fully understand. But she knows her mother and her aunt are being evasive; secrets are being kept.

#OnlyMay @carollovekin @honno #RandomThingsTours @annecater @RandomTTours #blogtour

Like her grandmother before her, May has her own magic: the bees whisper to her as they hover in the garden … the ghosts chatter in the graveyard. And she can’t be fooled by a lie.

She becomes determined to find out what is being kept from her. But when May starts to uncover her own story, she threatens to bring her mother and aunt’s carefully constructed family to the edge of destruction….

My Review

“When my bees swarm….I tell myself it is the death of a lie. I keep still, let the vibrations surround me….Come with us. And, as I am pulled into the hive mind, the bees lay a sleep spell on me. Their best remedy.”

Such poetry, such lyrical writing. I just love this. So many beautiful passages I could quote, but then it wouldn’t be a review, just a series of extracts. Maybe no bad thing.

It’s the 1950s. Just-turned-seventeen-year-old May lives with her mother Esme, her father Billy, seriously wounded and shell-shocked from his experiences in the second world war, and Esme’s sister Ffion. Esme, Billy and May live in the main family house, while somewhat-Bohemian Ffion lives in a caravan in the garden. May and Esme both work at the Drovers Hotel, owned by the indomitable and slightly scary Constance Cadwallader and her live-in lover Amelie Griffin.

‘Keep it under your hat though, May,’ says Ffion, ‘It’s a secret, okay, and no-one’s business but theirs.’ If it became common knowledge, certain people might hate them. ‘They aren’t hurting anyone. Trouble is, I’m afraid prejudice brings out the coward in a lot of people.’

But Constance is lying to her about something else and May can tell. Because May can see who is telling lies – it’s a special gift – like conversing with the bees and hearing ghosts in the graveyard. And Esme and Ffion also have secrets, secrets that will change everything if they ever come out. Yes, even Esme, who ‘loved so deeply, she was in danger of wearing out her heart.’

What can I say. I loved this book. It’s a slow burn, but you need to savour every word, every phrase, every sentence. Just look at this quote. It’s pure poetry:

‘Years later, she was still finding them – slivers of her heart floating in her body. She collected them, like the shards of broken crockery she unearthed in the garden, patterned with grief, saved them for better times that never seemed to come.’

The story is both sad and joyous, the characters among the loveliest I have read about in recent years. There are no bad people here, just a group of characters who thought that what they did was for the best.

Sometimes it takes a while for a story to sink in and it’s only afterwards that you realise you have read something really special. This is such a book.

Many thanks to @annecater for inviting me to be part of #RandomThingsTours

As an aside, my friend and I were out on a walk when she spotted a big, fluffy bee on what I think was a Californian Lilac. I could see her little legs (the bee’s not my friend’s) and feet working away, flicking petals all over the place. ‘She’s working so hard isn’t she,’ said my friend. Thinking of May, I started talking to the bee. We both did. I wish I’d taken a photo.

About the Author

Carol Lovekin has Irish blood and a Welsh heart. She was born in Warwickshire and has lived in mid Wales since 1979. A feminist, she finds fiction the perfect vehicle for telling women’s collective stories. Her books reflect her love of the landscape and mythology of her adopted home.

Also by Carol Lovekin:
GHOSTBIRD: ‘Charming, quirky, magical’ Joanne Harris
SNOW SISTERS: ‘… a novel of magic, of potent spells, and of great beauty.’ Louise
WILD SPINNING GIRLS: ‘an author with magic in her writing whose words enhance
the lives of those who read her.’ Linda’s Book Bag

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