The Earth Hums in B Flat – Mari Strachan

Synopsis from Goodreads.
Every night, 12-year-old Gwenni Morgan flies in her sleep. She leaves the bed she shares with her sister and soars into the night sky, listening to the nighttime sounds of her small Welsh village below. Irrepressible Gwenni — a dreamer full of unanswerable questions and unbounded curiosity — is childlike yet touchingly adult. Reluctantly facing a modern world, she prefers her nightly flights to school and her chores. Blessed with the uncommon insight of a young girl, Gwenni’s view of the world is unparalleled.
Quaint, odd, touched, funny in the head: Gwenni is all too familiar with the taunts of her peers and fields them with equanimity beyond her years. She knows she can no more change her nature than stop the sun
from rising. And when a neighbor goes missing, Gwenni turns amateur sleuth, determined to solve the mystery of his disappearance. Little does she realize that the trail she’s pursuing will bring her uncomfortably close to home, and a dark secret.

“Whales, porpoises, mermaids and mermen, dead sailors, fishes, crabs, tiny shrimps; the sea is forever full of eyes that watch me. I never fly far beyond the shore. If my town were a map the bay would have Here be Monsters written on it in golden ink.”

It always feels a cop out when I write a review about a book such as ‘The Earth Hums in B- Flat’ because I’m going to go on and on about how much I enjoyed it and you’ll read with wide-eyes shining, practically quivering with excitement because you want to know more and more…
[I may or may not picture everyone who reads my reviews reading them like that. *cough*]
And then I’ll be like: “SORRY! No can do, my friend, because if I say anything else the book will be spoilt and the only thing as bad as a book being spoilt is when someone pokes you in the side in the middle of a stretch.”

So I’m going to try and be clever and get you to want to read this book without me actually telling you anything about what happens.
Right from the start you are transported into post-war (I never actually got a hold of the exact date but I’m guessing late 50s because there is mention of the Munich Air Disaster) North Wales. It feels close and comforting and there are friendly Welsh people chatting with each other, making buttermilk and washing their front step. It is a wonderful setting; extremely quaint and rural and it almost made me feel nostalgic for not only a place I’d never been to, but also an era.
Everyone in this village knows everyone and everyone knows everything about everyone. There is a lot of curtain-twitching in this book. There’s just something about nosey neighbours that I love so much, don’t ask me why.
But all the secrets and the gossiping and the hearsay and the whispered rumours can only lead to two things:
1) Bad things happening.
2) A book that I couldn’t put down.

Twelve year old Gwenny was such a delightful and unique character. I simply adored her. But I guess that doesn’t really say much because give a girl an imagination and she’s already a million times better than a lot of literary ladies.
She’s inquisitive, she is clever and the people of her village and her family think she’s odd because she’s different. Isn’t that just the best way to be?
I just loved her. She went through so much and she still had time to be cute as a little button all the way through.

But it was the sense of family that really got to me in this book. Ms Strachan wrote these scenes impeccably. It’s all about family secrets, ancestry and it’s about finding out where you fit in amongst all that. My favourite parts of this book were the parts where Gwenny is creating her family tree. She goes around to her Nain’s to listen to stories about her family, goes and visits the gravestones of her relatives looking for their tales now forgotten and buried and then fills in the details with her bright pencil crayons.
But these families have skeletons in their closet.
Ms Strachan was able to really delve deep into the family dynamics and didn’t let you dare look away when things got a bit rough. And boy, did they get rough. Some scenes in this book were so tense I had to stop reading because I felt so claustrophobic.

All of these characters had secrets and a lot of them were broken and Ms Strachan plants you firmly in the midst of it. I really connected with all of these characters and I couldn’t make up my mind whether I wanted to cuddle them, scowl at them, ignore them or throttle them.
All of the above, maybe.

The only reason why I’m not giving this book all the praise is because I worked out both of the major plot twist pretty early on. I think if anyone knows their historical figures will be able to guess at some things. Ooooh, cryptic.
Also, some of the story-lines/character’s situations were left unopened and I almost got the impression that the reader is just left to assume a lot of things. But given the clues/evidence/what-have-you we’d be given along the way and even the ‘big reveal’ at the end, there were still a lot of things that I was unsatisfied with.
And one more thing…

SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER.

I couldn’t commend Ms Strachan highly enough on how she dealt with mental illness, especially the town’s reactions to it. I felt considering the era and the small-town mentality, it was really realistic and never once sensationalised. However, I couldn’t help but feel that it was sometimes used as a fall-back excuse for a lot of the major things that happened in this book.
Why does her mam hate Gwenni so much? Depression. Why did Gwenny’s mam cheat on her husband? Depression. Why did Ifan beat his wife? Depression. Why doesn’t Richard’s dad believe in God? Depression.
To me anyway, it sometimes felt a bit… easy and I guess I wanted more of an explanation as to why these things happened. I understand that mental illness could and probably was a factor in all of those things, but that was the only explanation we seemed to be given. And I guess I just needed a bit more of a concrete one.

END OF SPOILERS

[Wow, OK… maybe I didn’t like this book as much as I thought I did. Maybe I was in a post-reading glow.]

But apart from those bits, this book was glorious and I would wholly recommend it to young adults and real-life adults alike.

Gratuitous Castle Picture.
I never actually got a hold on which town Gwenni lived in but I know it has a castle and it’s across the water from Cricieth.
Which also has a catle but it’s nothing in comparison to hers.

“In my sleep I have to fly up and up and up to avoid the gatehouse and the Red Dragon on our castle before diving again to the sands and the sea.”

But it’s still pretty impressive, no?

Fun Welsh Word of the Day!
Sws = Kiss.
Pronunciation: Soohs.
Find out more!
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6 thoughts on “The Earth Hums in B Flat – Mari Strachan

  1. I am really not bothered by spoilers but I did skip over that section of your review, so thanks for mentioning them ;)

    I think this sounds very unique and I've already added it to Goodreads ;)

  2. I'm rather proud of myself – didn't read the spoilers – this is a first for me! But this sounds very mysterious and I will definitely look it up. And a nice treat for all those castle fans out there.

  3. Pingback: Goodies! #1 « Maree's Musings

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