The Covenant Kindle Edition
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- File Size : 1456 KB
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print Length : 391 pages
- Publication Date : August 20, 2020
- Publisher : Honno Press (August 20, 2020)
- ASIN : B08CZJ8BSL
- Language: : English
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced Typesetting : Enabled
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #3,050,172 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top review from the United States
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Historical fiction - late 19th-early 20th century.
This doom-laden tale about the Owen family and their land begins with a mystery: the discovery of a body, declared to be that that of Leah Owen, who happens to be the main character of the novel—but this is in no way a spoiler. If anything, it provided added intrigue to the story, which then goes back in time to Leah's childhood. Much later, the why and how of the initial chapter comes as a total surprise.
Life on Cwmderwen is hard, with strict adherence to the word of God—and that of Thomas Owen, head of the family, who becomes a religious zealot to the point of insanity after the death of his eldest son. Leah's entire life is ruled by duty to family and farm, and the restrictions of religion. Her bright childhood spirit is quelled by bereavement and loss of love—happiness is snatched from her at every turn. Aside from the day to day problems (scratching a living, troublesome rellies and a wrathful killjoy of a god), Leah also has to contend with the malignant presence of slimy businessman Eli John, who has unwelcome influence over their lives.
I was completely absorbed in this book all the way through; it's so well-written, every character clearly defined, every piece of research unobtrusive (and it is clear that the author knows her subject so well), every dark, dismal day in the Welsh valleys so real. Although it is most definitely worth 5* for the quality of the writing and the story itself, I was initially going to take off a half star because of personal taste; I found this book more depressing than any novel of stark dystopian futures, simply because of the lives wasted and made unhappy because of the barmy religious and social protocols of the day. But the end was uplifting indeed, enough to make me revise that; Thorne Moore, you have earned that extra half star!
If you love nitty-gritty, no-frills family sagas set in relatively recent times, you will ADORE this. Even if they're not quite your thing, you'll still love it. I did. I read at the end that it's actually a prequel to A Time For Silence, which I have just bought. There—that proves I loved it!
Top reviews from other countries
Told in the first person point of view of the protagonist, Leah Owen, a woman driven by duty, loyalty and love for her family (who always expect too much of her), the story follows her life through the decades. And, though the core of this thoroughly rounded character remains the same, the outward changes in her, wrought by life’s disappointments and regrets are inevitable as the years’ progress. I found myself wanting her to rebel, to question the road she’s forced to follow, not only through the whims and vagaries of the farm’s land; “twenty-four acres, one rood and eight perches” , but by the wishes of Thomas Owen, her father, Tadu, who rules the family through his inflexible translation of the Bible.
This is a man who is unbending: in his control over his wife ( a control that leads to disaster), in his dismissal of his two eldest daughters, in his view of Leah’s younger brother, Frank – the “prodigal” son; a son who goes his own way, despite his father’s violent punishments, and whose story inevitably shapes Leah’s life, In contrast Thomas is unchanging in his love for Leah – but there is a proviso; it is only on his terms. She will be the dutiful daughter, forced to follow his rules. This is a wonderfully portrayed character underlying the basis of the actions of the family. Though Leah is the protagonist and it is her story we follow, it is Tadu who is at the patriarchal hub of the wheel and, like spokes on that wheel, are spread a whole cast of supporting characters.
Even the cottage of Cwmderwen itself becomes a character with its “…solid stones and heavy timber (that) seem to sink themselves into the black earth…” yet there is that crack in the wall of the parlour, the “Death” room, that Leah’s demented sister traces with her finger, peers through – and Leah wonders if Mary can see “all those who have passed through, those Leah could not see…”. The crack used as a metaphor for the fundamental weaknesses of each character within the family and the flaws in the determination to hold on to the the “twenty-four acres, one rood and eight perches”
As I previously mentioned, the author has a talent for bringing a Welsh ambience of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century alive, both in The Time for Silence and in The Covenant. This is awareness is equally obvious in the dialogue, where the Welsh language intermingles with English. And there is never any doubt as to which character is speaking.
Subtly threaded throughout the story are themes of duty, love – familial and romantic, pride,despair, loneliness, death and guilt – what more can one ask of a story set around families
As a reader, my favourite style of story is character led rather than plot. In The Covenant, I found the best of both worlds; a gripping story line with really believable characters. I cannot recommend The Covenant highly enough.
Although The Covenant is the prequel of A Time For Silence, both books are also stand alone and can be read as completely separate novels.
Tragedy befalls the family early in the book and sets in motion a chain of events that lead Leah further and further away from her own choices, pushing her to take on the duty that’s expected of her.
The family dynamics are excellent and there’s a full spectrum of characters from the kind and honourable David to the despicable and frightening Eli.
The tension increases as Leah grows and has to face harder decisions and deal with betrayals by some of those closest to her.
This book is beautifully written and has a stunning twist at the end.
The sense of place, the Welsh weather, the landscape and the tight-knit communities inhabiting this slice of Pembrokeshire are vividly evoked and draw the reader into the drama that unfolds in this dark tale of duty, creed and land. Highly recommended, as is its sequel, 'Time for Silence.'
The style makes it very easy to launch into the lives of Leah and her family and neighbours. This is not a cute little historical fiction novel about a idealised late 19th/early 20th century Welsh community… it deals with day to day hardship, tragedy and some really nasty, but all-too-realistic, characters (Thorne Moore is very good at conjuring up wicked, vile people). The story is totally gripping and it was really interesting learning about cut-off rural communities (so completely different to the life in the big cities at the time, that is more well-known). I also enjoyed the occasional use of the Welsh language (interesting to read how it has changed a bit in the last >100 years). I would thoroughly recommend this to people who enjoyed A Time for Silence as there are overlapping characters and you get to understand how one of them developed their distinctive personality. I would also recommend it to those who enjoy well researched, realistic historical fiction.
Thorne Moore has written a novel titled ‘The Unravelling’ so it’s no surprise that she focuses on the way events-trigger-actions-trigger-greater-events here. In ‘The Covenant’ rural Wales is evoked just as convincingly as the urban 20th century world of ‘The Unravelling’, and the historical detail never becomes top-heavy. We feel those difficult acres with Leah. We hear the disturbing figures of Thomas Owen, and later his grandson John, out in the fields claiming aloud their covenant with God of this land.
Will Leah, caught between these men, ever escape? And if so how, constrained as she is by chapel and community, custom, and her own changing self as she grows from girl to disappointed middle-aged woman? This is a rich and gripping read.
Now to read ‘A Time For Silence’ again...