Pam Baddeley's Reviews > The Earth Witch

The Earth Witch by Louise Lawrence
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really liked it
bookshelves: fantasy

This struck me at first as having a very similar set up to Alan Garner's famous 'The Owl Service'. Rural Wales, a poor Welsh boy and a well off English girl and boy whose father now owns the land, instead of the original Welsh, in a valley where an old Welsh myth appears to be playing itself out. Except here we have a woman who transforms between beautiful young maiden and hideous old crone, and requires the sacrifice of a young man to maintain her fertility and that of the land.

Owen is the young Welshman who starts off open hearted and friendly, and helps the forbidding woman who has moved into an old cottage belonging to a deceased member of her family, an old crone whom no-one liked. Gradually, she thaws in her attitude towards him and he spends more and more time there, restoring her garden and doing up the house.

At first Owen, who was raised by his Aunt Glad and Uncle Ivor because he is illegitimate and her mother left when he was a baby, is looking for a mother figure, but the relationship develops beyond that as Bronwyn seems to grow younger and more beautiful. Soon they are scandalising the neighbourhood, this story being published in the early 1980s and set in a more conservative place than a big city in any case.

The relationship has an unhealthy undertone as Owen moves further away from everyone he previously held dear. He can't even eat the food prepared by normal people. And there are sour notes in the presence of a vicious dog kept by Bronwyn but mistreated by her, and an equally savage pig. Plus she gives him quite frequent lectures about how women are mistreated and done down by men, but with a mythical slant, as she identifies with the land and speaks of herself as if she has lived as the female characters of Welsh mythology, goddesses and other semi supernatural beings. Ultimately, as summer winds to an end and October sets in, she will require a sacrifice and even if Owen does not succumb, he will never be the same again, and elements of Bronwyn will be reborn in the English girl who is his friend and perhaps wants to be more.

One oddity in this book given its Welsh setting is the occasional jarring usage of American terms for things, e.g. closet and candy. Plus there are rather a lot of references to a 'math' book and 'math' homework in one section, whereas the British term is maths. So that tends to bump the British reader out of the story when it occurs. Otherwise, it is a dark story with a lot of atmosphere and evocative description of the Welsh landscape and seasons, and definitely the best of the six books by Louise Lawrence that I have read so far.
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Reading Progress

October 23, 2015 – Shelved
October 23, 2015 – Shelved as: to-read
November 3, 2015 – Shelved as: fantasy
July 18, 2016 – Started Reading
July 25, 2016 – Finished Reading

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