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Weyward

by Emilia Hart

Book list Hart's debut historical novel immerses the reader in three time periods and three story lines involving Weyward family women. In 1619, Altha Weyward is on trial for her life, accused of witchcraft in the death of her best friend’s husband. In the 1940s, tomboy Violet, preferring to roam hill and dale in search of the insects that so deeply fascinate her, is a disappointment to her frosty father, who is darkly silent regarding Violet’s dead mother. When cousin Frederick visits, Violet is irrevocably drawn to him. Decades later, Violet’s great-niece Kate flees an abusive relationship, seeking shelter in the cottage bequeathed by her great-aunt. The characterization of the Weyward women is well-realized, but where the novel truly excels is in its depiction of the terrifying way abusers spin their webs to ensnare their prey, like the spiders Violet so admires. Tension and suspense are skillfully maintained as these women seek to extricate themselves from dire circumstances and discover secret strength. The result is a tale of magic and female empowerment and an atmospheric, gripping read.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Building excitement about this powerful novel will land Weyward on many request lists.

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

Kirkus Three generations of women struggle against the bounds of patriarchy in this debut novel. Over the course of centuries, the Weyward women of Crows Beck in Cumbria, England, have shared a common gift: the ability to connect deeply with and seemingly communicate with nature, particularly animals. But they are also all victimized and controlled by men in a variety of ways. In 1619, healer Altha is put on trial for witchcraft after having been seen near a field where a farmer is trampled by his cows and because her own mother was suspected of being a witch due to her involvement in treating people in the village. Hundreds of years later, in the early 1940s, Violet Ayres chafes against the heavy-handed scrutiny and control of her father and struggles to learn more about her mother, Elizabeth Weyward, who died under mysterious circumstances when Violet was young. In the present day, Kate Ayres has fled her abusive live-in boyfriend before he can discover that she’s pregnant, taking refuge in her great-aunt Violet’s cottage as she attempts to rebuild her life and protect herself and her baby. Although the women's connection to nature at times feels like an unneeded dose of the supernatural in this already gripping novel, the ways in which they are subjected to the whims and cruelties of male dominance are chilling and realistic. Readers probably won't be especially surprised by some of the twists of the story, but this is nonetheless an engaging novel that captures the ways patriarchy has sought to limit women for all of history and the ways women have found to carve out freedom for themselves. Thoughtful and at times harrowing, this novel is a successful blend of historical fiction and modern feminism. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Publishers Weekly Hart explores in her triumphant debut sexual desire, violence, and personal autonomy in the lives of three strong-willed English women from the 17th century to the present. In 1619 Lancaster, 21-year-old healer Altha Weyward stands accused of witchcraft after using powers learned from her mother to provide women with reproductive care. In 1942, 16-year-old Violet Ayres passes time by observing the creatures around her family home near the village of Crows Beck. Her widowed father keeps her confined there because she exhibits the same strange behavior as her mother, Elizabeth Weyward Ayres, who had the ability to command crows, but Violet nonetheless lusts after an army officer who visits the house. In 2019, pregnant 29-year-old Kate Ayres flees her abusive boyfriend and moves to a cottage in Crows Beck that was left to her by her great-aunt. As she settles into her new home, she finds documents about the Weyward women’s powers. Hart skillfully weaves together the stories of the determined women, showing how they confronted a patriarchal society to take control of their lives. The magic harnessed by the characters feels completely real in this captivating outing. Agent: Felicity Blunt, Curtis Brown. (Mar.)This review has been updated to clarify a plot point. A previous version of this review also incorrectly stated the Kate character was married.

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