Being married to a Welshman who hails from Neath, not far from the Gower Peninsular, I’m delighted to be celebrating Wales in a guest post by Mary Grand, author of Hidden Chapters.
Hidden Chapters was published on 24th August 2016 and is available for purchase in e-book and paperback here.
Whoever said time heals all wounds is a liar…
Haunted by the death of Aled at Worm’s Head, his sister Catrin returns to prepare the family home for sale, accompanied by her adopted Deaf daughter, Bethan. A web of lies and secrets spun by Catrin’s father slowly starts to unravel. Catrin, facing a crisis in her marriage, discovers that she must face this past if she is to heal and take control of her future.
Nobody expects to meet Bethan’s birth mother, Elizabeth, who they think is dead. Her arrival at a memorial for Aled sends shock waves through the family.
This is the beautifully told story of a family struggling with ghosts from the past.
The Importance of Place
A Guest Post by Mary Grand
“..A secret that people hug to themselves” Wynford Vaughan Thomas
This is a quote about The Gower Peninsula, the setting of my novel Hidden Chapters. It could be said of many places in Wales.
The setting of my novels is not simply a backdrop but is like an essential character, the story weaves itself around it. Wales is where I was brought up and although I now live on the Isle of Wight, it is in me, part of my DNA. It was natural for me to set my novels there.
My first novel Free to Be Tegan is the story of a woman recovering from her upbringing in a psychologically abusive cult in London. The setting is the amazing Cambrian Mountains. I created a fictitious village here and the place, as much as the people, become part of her healing. This is Tegan’s initial reaction on arriving at the cottage in the mountains.
“Tegan turned and looked into the distance at the mountains painted with white gloss snow. She stepped off the track on to the grass, which felt soft and springy under her feet, and stood spellbound. Out here nature ran riot: no fences, and no boundaries. Nature adapted to survive: the daffodils were short, the trees all bent in the same direction, sculpted by the wind. In the London parks people were in control, with organised paths and borders, each tree and flower planted and preserved for a purpose.
As Tegan looked she felt an inexplicable deep feeling of sadness. It was too much freedom, too much beauty. She didn’t know what to do with it. “
Hidden Chapters, my new novel is set on Rhossili Bay, a place of stunning beauty and packed with so many myths, legends and history. On the beach wrecks tell stories of love lorn sailors, smugglers, pirates. The name of Worm’s Head, the tidal island off the bay, originates from ‘wurm’ a Viking word meaning dragon. In my story the island is the site of the death of Aled, the brother of the central character Catrin. It becomes a symbol of the past, the hidden chapters in Catrin’s life that she wants to forget.
For the novel I created a fictitious village hidden in the downs. When she arrives Catrin has such mixed feeling about the place.
“Catrin … turned and looked up for the first time since she had arrived… The sea air stroked her face and the sea reflected the brilliant blue sky, the sun glistening on its surface like stars. She closed her eyes, and the stifling heat of the car and her father’s harsh words were briefly blown away. She could smell the salt, the gorse, the heather. The air was filled with an undercurrent of sound, the shushing of the waves washing the line of pebbles and shells at the water’s edge way down on the beach.
For a brief, wonderful, spellbinding, moment the place hugged her. It became real; she saw it in colour…But then she looked further into the distance, and saw it. Stretching out, cold and solitary: ‘the dragon’. She shuddered. It would always be there, silently haunting her. “
Wales has places of extraordinary beauty and a rich heritage of stories, myths and legends. I love the way people speak: even when they are speaking English their voices sing. As for the Welsh language, where else would you find words like cariad, (love, darling, sweetheart) cwtch (cuddle)? Wales is a place where people can be chatty, intrusive and where emotions are close to the surface. It is a privilege, a gift, to set stories there.
About Mary Grand
Mary Grand was born in Cardiff UK and has retained a deep love for her Welsh roots. She worked as a nursery teacher in London and later taught deaf children in Croydon and Hastings. Mary now lives on the beautiful Isle of Wight with her husband, where she walks her cocker spaniel Pepper and writes. She has two grown up children.
Free to Be Tegan (available here) was her debut novel. The second Hidden Chapters is set on the spectacular Gower Peninsula. Mary has also published a book of short stories Catching the Light (available here).