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Sandlands by Rosy Thornton

Source: the author
Paperback, 320 pgs.
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Sandlands by Rosy Thornton is a devastating collection of short stories, some of which shift between the present and WWII and some of which occur during WWII. These 16 short stories are set near the village of Blaxhall in coastal Suffolk, England, and it is Gothic in many ways as Thornton creates micro-worlds in which her characters are haunted or lost. These characters dwell in an ethereal world in which nature itself becomes a character of its own, including the owl who keeps secrets.

Each story is a magical world in which anything is possible, though some have a more meditative pace than others. There are two in particular that have a crescendo that will leave readers breathless and devastated — “The Watcher of Souls” and “Stone the Crows.”

In the “Watcher of Souls,” an older woman takes walks in the woods daily and comes across an owl, and they have a moment in which their eyes lock. This connection becomes something she seeks to explore after she’s read about the legends and myths of owls. When she discovers the owl’s home in a hollow of a tree, she also discovers a tale of love and sadness. This story enables her to connect with others in a way that had been lost to her since her children moved out and began their own adult lives and she was left to live alone. It’s a touching story about human connection, love, and the solace it can bring, even just through words from the past.

These stories are complex puzzles with dynamic characters who are developed in a short span by Thornton, but who will leave an indelible impression on the reader. The setting is steeped in myth and historical legends of witches and witch hunters, WWII POWs, pagan religions carried on in the iconography of Christian churches, and folklore. In Sandlands, Thornton has created an absorbing atmosphere that envelops readers like the fog, providing them just enough to discern a path forward but not enough to see the end before it arrives.

RATING: Quatrain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

Rosy Thornton is an author of contemporary fiction, published by Headline Review. Her novels could perhaps be described as romantic comedy with a touch of satire – or possibly social satire with a hint of romance. In real life she lectures in Law at the University of Cambridge, where she is a Fellow of Emmanuel College. She shares her home with her partner, two daughters and two lunatic spaniels.  Visit her Website.

Mailbox Monday #393

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links. Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

Sandlands by Rosy Thornton for review from the author.

This beautifully written short story collection is inspired by coastal England, by the landscape and its flora and fauna, as well as by its folklore and historical and cultural heritage. Several of the stories focus on a bird, animal, wildflower, or insect characteristic of the locality, from barn owl to butterfly. The book might be described as a collection of ghost stories; in fact, while one or two stories involve a more or less supernatural element, each of them deals in various ways with the tug of the past upon the present, and explores how past and present can intersect in unexpected ways.

Secrets of Animal Camouflage by Carron Brown & Bee Johnson, which I ordered from Usborne Books for my daughter for a pending camping trip.

New light is thrown on the secrets of animal camouflage in this delightfully illustrated new Shine-a-Light title. Children will discover how animals hide by ingeniously adapting to their environment. From stick insects hiding on branches to the extraordinary owl butterly with wing patterns which resemble the eyes of an owl, the simple text and beautiful illustrations reveal the secrets of this spectacular world.

The unique design of the book allows children to discover a “hidden“ image by holding the page up to a bright light. For children aged 3 and up, this is the perfect introduction to the hidden mysteries of the natural world.

On the Space Station by Carron Brown & Bee Johnson, which I purchased for our daughter from Usborne Books.

What is life like on a space station? Shine a light behind the page and see . . . What do the astronauts do in space? What do they eat? Where do they sleep? What do they wear? Each page-turn will take you another step forward on this exciting tour of a space station.

The Human Body by Carron Brown & Rachel Saunders, which I bought for our daughter from Usborne books.

Discover the secrets of the human body with the newest beautiful, educational, and fun title in the Shine-A-Light series. Hold a light behind the pages to see muscles flex, watch as food travels through the digestive system, and take a peek at the skeleton holding you upright.

Raccoon on the Moon and Other Tales, also purchased from Usborne books.

***If you’re interested in Usborne books, I’ll be hosting an online Facebook party in October. Send me an email and I’ll get you invited. They have books for young kids, middle schoolers, and teens.***

What did you receive?