It is obvious Maria McClann loves history. Her earlier book, As Meat Loves Salt was a historical book and now comes her latest, The Wilding, a periodical set in England during the 17th century
A wilding is bastard tree, that springs up without planting and the fruit it has to offer is uncertain in taste. And the unspoken tale that the book narrates is of a ‘wilding’ in a family. What happens when a young man from a middle-class family, warmly cocooned with the love of his family stumbles upon a dirty and mysterious family secret that exposes him to the cold and harsh realities of life?
It is the year 1672 and the narrator Jonathan Dymond is a cider maker who goes from town to town on a portable cider-press. By a twist of fate, young Jonathan gets dragged into a family secret that every elder has kept from him. A dying uncle’s letter to his dad turns his life upside down. Revenge and inheritance are two words in the letter that worries Jonathan’s young mind.
Jonathan now decides to get to the bottom of the matter and pays a visit to his uncle’s widow and his aunt Harriet without his family’s knowledge. Little did he know that End House in Tetton Green would shake all his beliefs in his family. At his uncle’s house, he befriends some queer characters, the wild servant-girl Tamar and her mother Joan, who is a beggar.
Aunt Harriet is someone who is colder than a stone statue and she makes sure that her displeasure at his presence is made known to him. In the course of his stay there, Jonathan discovers that there is more to his aunt than what meets the eye. His only friends at his aunt’s house suddenly find themselves homeless when aunt Harriet accuses Tamar of stealing.
Jonathan plays the good samaritan and comes to the aid of the mother-daughter duo and Tamar gratified by his help willingly informs him of the dark secret that had been kept from him for so long. He comes to know that his aunt is indeed an evil incarnate and vows to get to the bottom of the murky business and do justice.
The Wilding being a historical novel may not be a fast read unlike the fast-paced novels of today. But it has its own charm bolstered by the sharply etched characters who bring the book alive. McCann knows how to keep the reader’s attention by incorporating the chemistry between Tamar and Jonathan and her generous use of the supernatural. Writing in slow prose, she has found the perfect balance where historical writing does not seem like a yawn. The book sure does make an interesting read on a chilly winter night.
BOOK: The Wilding
Author: Maria McClann
Publisher: Penguin; 400 pages