“It’s no good rewilding the world , if we do not rewild ourselves.”
Sylvia has been brought from her city home in Newcastle to the vast, never-ending landscapes and skies of rural Northumberland for a break. She feels cut off, isolated and, in a strange way, enclosed by the depth of seemingly endless darkness that first night.
She then meets enigmatic Gabriel, who shows her the countryside and links to the past. Their walks and talks enable Sylvia to look within herself and within the landscape for connections to the past, her past, the past of the landscape and nature. This is deepened by her making of an ancient musical instrument from the wing bone of a buzzard.
Sylvia is concerned about humans and the destruction they bring to the planet. By embracing her surroundings, the history, the music and the people, by letting herself get lost in them, she finds her true self as well as hope and light, which gives her a deep, deep sense of belonging and courage to fight for the future.
David Almond is a master wordsmith, painting stunning images in the reader’s head. His prose is poetic, lyrical. It evokes the infinite landscape and skies of Northumberland, the musicality of nature and the wilderness through time.
As I read this, I could not help but reference the words and images of The Dam (2019, David Almond, illustrated by Levi Pinfold), which has the same modern/ancient, music/ghostly themes. The flooded village is later mentioned in Bone Music, the lake now part of the natural, ever changing but constant landscape.
The themes of humans verses the environment, ancient verses modern, light versus dark, destruction versus creation are deep. Sylvia’s journey to Northumberland and inside herself provide hope, light and music that will strengthen and heal.
Whilst Sylvia is the main character, for me the landscape and music are the unconventional stars of this story.
The cover design, by David Litchfield, is hauntingly beautiful. It encapsulated so much of the meaning in this story.
I was provided with an eARC of this by NetGalley and Hachette Books. Thank you.