Emilia Hart 2023
Weyward Cottage holds memories and secret knowledge – and it offers asylum for three women in a story that transcends time, with a nod to the three witches (weyward, or weird, sisters) of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.”
Altha (1619), descended from a line of women who heal, is on trial for witchcraft after a man is trampled by his own cattle. She has lived in Weyward Cottage all her life. Violet (1942), with her affinity for the insect world, first understands the mysteries of the cottage when, not even out of her teens, she is sent there to wait for her fiancé who is serving in the British armed forces. Kate (2019), married and living far from the cottage which she has inherited, soon finds her way there as she seeks safety.
Members of a long line of wise women who understand the ways of nature, and maybe the ways of magic, each woman lives in the cottage separated from the others, as the rules of time would dictate – but when help is most sorely needed, the boundaries of time becomes fluid and permeable. Each woman has the opportunity to transmute her victimhood into independence, sometimes with the help of the Weyward women who came before.
Weyward is filled with magical realism (always a plus for this reviewer) – the earth and its creatures offer care and solidarity to the three heroines. The “women good, men bad” theme is further emphasized by author’s tight focus on just the three heroines and two or three satellite characters associated with each of them. The line from heroine to heroine is firmly anchored and does not branch, so the reader’s view is focused on the wrongs done to these women and the gender of the people in power who committed those wrongs. The few non-evil male characters are either incidental or powerless. This feels simplistic, but maybe the same battle is playing out over again for each woman, furthering the sense of time’s fluidity.
Regardless, Weyward is an engrossing listen or read. Emilia Hart has mastered the trickiness of navigating smoothly among three time periods to tell a story that hovers just outside the confines of time, and narrators Aysha Kala, Helen Keeley, and Nell Barlow are the perfect voices for the three Weyward women.
Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley, from whom I received an ARC of this audiobook.