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Sunday, 19 July 2009
A Spell Of Swallows
by Sarah Harrison
I bought this book because I had read several excellent reviews on it, and also because it’s based on a period that I’m presently researching. I had read Sarah Harrison’s 'Flowers of the Field' years ago, but for some reason had not read any of her books for a while. I shall now be remedying that fact.
The book is so beautifully written and as soon as you start reading you are instantly drawn in to the beauty of England in the early part of the last century. We soon realize that the protagonist, John Ashe is both intriguing and has scores to settle. He has been horribly disfigured during the Great War, but it is not until the end that we actually find out what happened.
He ingratiates himself into the small village of Eadenford and despite the local people being initially repelled by his appearance, and all that it reminds them of, they are unable to find fault with someone who gives them no reason to. He is both clever and manipulative, soon ingratiating himself into the lives of the unpopular vicar and his gentle wife, who, although she loves her husband, is unable to help being pulled under John Ashe’s spell. Unfortunately for them, his intentions are not as honourable as they originally appear to be.
The book intersperses chapters from the present(a year after the Great War) with John Ashe’s experiences in Mesopotamia, where he fought alongside Captain Christopher Jarvis. It is through this that we begin to understand why he has such a basic cruelty within his character, and slowly we understand what happened in his past to damage him so deeply, both physically and emotionally, bringing this story to a thrilling and shocking climax.
I read the book in twenty-four hours, and could not put it down. I have now found that another book by Sarah Harrison, 'The Nightingale’s Nest', tells us about John Ashe ten years after the Great War, and his relationship with Christopher Jarvis and his family.
Reviewed by Debs Carr