Review: The Earth Hums in B Flat by Mari Strachan

Gwenni Morgan is not like any other girl in her small Welsh town. Inquisitive, bookish and fill of spirit, she can fly in her sleep and loves playing detective. So when a neighbour mysteriously vanishes and no one seems to be asking the right questions, Gwenni decides to conduct her own investigation.

I'll admit, it was the beautiful cover that first drew me to this book. The blurb sounded unusual so I was excited to give it a go. This book was not at all like I was expecting, but then maybe that was the author's intention. The plot is as much an exploration of mental illness as a a detective story - I won't say any more so as not to spoil it. It's clear to the reader from the start exactly what's happened to Ifan Evans, Gwenni's neighbour, so the 'detective' side of things is simply Gwenni finding out the truth for herself, growing up along the way. It is darkly compelling and a quick read. The child narrator, first person present, worked really well and I grew to really like Gwenni. Her naivety and ability to always see the best in people, her childlike view of the world and her boundless imagination really endeared her to me, even if the other villagers considered her 'odd'. From the cover and blurb I expected a novel set in the present day, but from what I read I would guess that it is set in the 1950s. The date is never actually stated. but Strachan paints a charming picture of rural nostalgia, of a Wales long gone. There is a real sense of community about the novel, everyone knows everyone and there's plenty of gossip and curtain-twitching going on among the adults. There are a few loose ends at the end of the novel, things I expected to be explained but never were -again I won't say what- and again I'm not sure whether it was deliberate. A thought provoking novel about life, secrets, and growing up.

4/5 stars: Very well written, unique and compelling, just not at all what I was expecting.


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