Gwenni Morgan is growing up in a 1950s Welsh town, and she has a special gift – she can fly in her sleep. She flies over the town, occasionally over the sea, and watches the world from above – at least, that’s when her sister isn’t disturbing her sleep by invading Gwenni’s side of the bed. This gift makes Gwenni inquisitive, and when a neighbour disappears, she’s determined to help bring him back to his family. But what else will she uncover along the way?
On the inside cover, this is described as “a magical novel that will transport you to another time and place”, and I have to agree – it is a magical book and as you experience the story through Gwenni’s first person narrative, you will indeed feel transported to the small town Welsh community and into the Morgan’s family home. Gwenni’s naivety means that while she doesn’t initially comprehend the significance of her observations, as a reader I was one or two steps ahead of her and able to piece together the truth for myself; this does not, however, take away anything from the reading experience and enjoyment of the book.
I really loved the brevity of the writing. That’s not to say it’s a short book, or has a sparse style, but Strachan doesn’t describe any of the characters in much detail, and yet the brief glimpses of physical features make all the people feel very real and genuine, and I had a vivid picture of each of them in my head. The details of the period are also only ever hinted at, with occasional vague references or gently interlaced details of the time, but there is never a specific description of the setting, merely enough to give a feeling of the period.
I became completely engrossed in Gwenni’s life and her journey to understanding her own family as well as the world around her. There is no sentimentality or mawkishness about this tale, merely lovely, and at times, moving, storytelling. Very impressive for a debut novel.