Thursday, August 04, 2016

Sandlands by Rosy Thornton



A few weeks ago I mentioned that Rosy Thornton had sent me a review copy of her latest book which this time is a collection of sixteen short stories rather than a novel.  I have previously reviewed two of her novels and I will put links to these reviews at the bottom of this post.  I have spent the last week reading Rosy's wonderful stories and I've enjoyed them immensely.  I had to limit myself to two stories a day but I could have read more as it didn't seem as if I was reading totally separate stories as similar themes and characters run through them all.

Rosy's wonderful writing draws you into each story with her poetic descriptions of the land and her sometimes amusing and sometimes poignant observations of people and places, of nature and nurture and the performing of simple everyday tasks.  The linking of these stories is in the history of place and of the people within that place.  Of several generations each affecting the other often in the same family through ancient houses, letters and old photos, of things that have gone before.

The stories are set in the county of Suffolk on the salt and sand marshes where fogs and floods are always present or threatened. There are many themes running through each story mostly of past and present merging, of early beginnings, superstitions, old traditions, the fragility of life in both human and animal world, of birth and death.  There is also always the threat from the closeness of the sea, fear of innundation, threats from those beyond the seas like maurauding Danes in the early centuries of the county's history and Dorniers in the skies during the second world war. Also running through the stories are strong, practical women, women coping with motherhood, pending motherhood, the loss of a child or spouse, widowhood and loneliness.   There are the academic men in their ivory towers like Mr Napish in High House, the narrator of Silver Studded Blues in his museum and Dr Whybrow in his Martello Tower in Whispers.
 
Another theme through many of Rosy's stories is flight.  World War Two planes overhead, old wartime airfields, later sites of protest against nuclear warheads, now wartime museums; seeds of rare wildflowers cast into the wind, the silver studded blue butterflies rising in a mass from the heather on Blaxhall Common, the sand blowing into houses in coastal villages and most notably of birds. A barn owl guarding letters in an old Oxo tin hidden in a tree, the sad, plaintive call of curlews as night falls across the marshes, oyster catchers feeding along the estuary and rooks nesting in the horse chestnut trees at the edge of Willett's farm, the nightingales who sing to the son of an Italian prisoner of war as he walks to visit the farm where his father worked on the land during his capture.

A lot of the stories are based in one village, Blaxhall and its church with its female rector who is on maternity leave, its bell ringers, its pub The Ship a centre for both the characters of the village, a group of aged folk singers plus the people who visit, whilst working on archaeological digs or researching ancestors. The meeting of the old ways and the new, pagan practises, Christianity, folklore and mystery.

I have enjoyed reading these stories very much and I'm sure I will return to them later this year to read them again just for Rosy's descriptions of the landscape she loves and writes about so well.

Sandlands by Rosy Thornton published by Sandstone Press 2016, P/Bk 260pages, ISBN 9 781910 985045 £8.99 

Here are links to my other reviews of Rosy Thornton's books

A Tapestry of Love
Ninepins

20 comments:

  1. Although I'm not really a fan of short stories usually, this book sounds great the way the stories are woven like a patchwork like the countryside around. I'll have to look out for it on the bookshelves. Thanks for the review. :-)

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    1. I'm not a great fan of short stories either, rather read a longer novel but I love these stories and they linked together so well:)

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  2. Although I am not usually a fan of short stories - Susan Hill being the exception, these stories sound right up my street. The excellence of your review has whetted my appetite, and I will definitely give this book a go.

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    1. Susan Hill is a brilliant writer isn't she? I found Rosy's stories to be as well written as any I'd read before and really enjoyed them for their subjects and themes. I hope you enjoy reading them:)

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  3. I go through phases of reading short stories and this book sounds like one I'd enjoy, thanks for the review.

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    1. They are wonderful stories, Janet:)

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  4. Thank's for your review. It sounds very interesting. I have not read any of her work before so will add her to my list.

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    1. Hope whichever book of Rosy's you chose you will enjoy it, she is a wonderful writer:)

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  5. Thank you so much for a lovely review, Rosie! I'm so pleased you enjoyed my stories.

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    1. I did enjoy them very much, Rosy. Thanks for leaving a comment here as I now know that you have seen my review. Good luck with the book:)

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  6. I will look forward to reading those short stories.A pleasant change from a longer book and as a bonus I love Suffolk.

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    1. It was actually a pleasant change to read the stories as I'd just worked my way through a very long book of over 500 pages. See my side bar for The Summer before the War, a wonderful book as well. If you love Suffolk you will love these stories:)

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  7. As I approach the end of this beautiful book I am feeling a mix of jealousy and envy! The many accolades are well deserved. Rosy Thornton is a very fine writer.

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    1. She is isn't she? It sounds as if you loved the book as much as I did:)

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  8. This sounds right up my street and I've just ordered the Kindle version to read while I'm in Suffolk next week!

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    1. I hope you enjoy the stories, I think you will enjoy the descriptions of the natural world and the history included in them:)

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  9. Now you tell me - 'I'm not a great fan of short stories', yet is not your favourite novel, 'A Month in the Country', more short than long? You write great short stories yourself. By the way on BBC Radio 4 there have just been four great short (14 minute) stories. If you search for Radio 4 The Crime Writer at the Festival you should find them. All entertaining and amusing. I have just downloaded the Kindle version of 'Sandlands' and will begin reading ths afternoon. You could have written your review just for me, knowng how much I am a fan of good short stories. As always a wonderful blog. See you soon I'm sure.

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    1. My favourite novella is indeed 'A Month in the Country' and I love it. I probably meant, but I can't find where I said it, that if I had to chose between a novel or short stories I woud chose the novel as something to get my teeth into and it is my preferred format. I actually do enjoy short stories and I love yours as well as Rosy's but some writers I find don't draw me in quickly enough or finish before I'm ready for them to. Hope this makes sense. Anyway, have summer pudding will travel - if you are free sometime next week or week after, depending on commitments we will pop over to see you and bring summer pudding. I hope you enjoy the stories as much as I didxxxx

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  10. Thanks so much for the review Rosie. I only occasionally read short stories but this book sounds like something I would enjoy very much. Thanks also for links to the other reviews - I will definitely be reading some of Rosy Thornton's work :) Have a lovely weekend.

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    1. I think you would like Rosy's descriptions of the land and the wildlife in the Sandland stories but also of the fens in Ninepins:)

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