The Earth Hums in B Flat

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by Mike

The Earth Hums in B Flat
by Mari Strachan
Publisher: Canongate

I listened to the town below breathe its shallow night-time breaths, in and out, in and out, and all around me the Earth sang.

Gwenni Morgan is a young flying detective in this charming book set in a Welsh town in the 1950s. In a story told with a love of words and infused with childhood wonder we follow Gwenni as she peels back the facade of normality as she investigates a mysterious death to reveal family secrets.

'Everyone knows these things but most of us don't talk about them.'

Her mother, her hands 'gnawing away at each other like mice eating cheese.' is not best pleased:

'No one will think Gwenni's clever if she goes around saying she can fly and dead animals are resurrected,' says Mam.

Reading the book is like poodling along in an old Morris Minor, it has a quite charm that gradually pulls you into its story. Hints of darkness, magic and a defective story are set into the Welsh village in a way that are totally believable and the flights of fancy so delightful that you fancy that if you closed your eyes you could join Gwenni in the sky.

The fact that this is a debut novel is impressive and it deserves the attention Waterstones have given it by naming Mari as one of its New Voices for 09. It is rare for an author to be so in control of their work on their first outing and there are no wild flourishes or bumps in the road along the way.

If you love language and story telling and if you love a book that has a distinctive voice without shouting at you, then pick this up.

Read it at night or in a plane - or in a little Welsh village on holiday - just make sure you read it sometime this year!

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