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Sunday, March 30, 2008

cover of Thornyhold

In Gilly's lonely childhood, the occasional visits of her older cousin Geillis were moments of sunshine and magic. Now Gilly is grown up and on her own, and discovers that her cousin Geillis has died and left her country house, Thornyhold, to Gilly. As she moves in and begins to get settled and meet her neighbors, she discovers that the people considered her cousin to be a kind of wise woman or witch, that the first owner of Thornyhold had an interested in herbs and remedies, and that some of Gilly's new neighbors expect her to continue the tradition. She has suspicious run-ins with the neighbor who lives at the gate-house, who claims to be looking for a special recipe hidden somewhere in the house (but it turns out she is looking for an old spell). Gilly also meets a young boy named William and his father (a handsome, divorced writer). And as the pigeons slowly return to the empty pigeon roost in the attic of the house, Gilly begins to receive messages-- mysterious, but encouraging.

The attitude towards magic and witchcraft is interesting here and a little ambivalent; it seems that Stewart is presenting different kinds of magic, because Cousin Geillis is definitely gifted in some kind of supernatural ways-- not only with her herbs and remedies for William's ferrets, but she also has some kind of foresight or prescience that's never fully articulated. However, Agnes thinks of herself as a witch, and even tries to recruit Gilly into her little coven-- which is almost more of a club, and seems harmless. But we discover, with Gilly, what means Agnes will use to accomplish her goals; for the love potion she is trying to make, she needs the hairs of a dead or dying dog, so she forces her dim-witted son to keep a dog tied up and starving in order to get her ingredient. When Gilly discovers, she is shocked and rescues the dog, nursing him back to health; it's clear that her attitude mirrors that of her cousin, who cared for all animals and life.

Enjoyable, quick read with engaging characters, a delightfully annoying villain, and a perfectly appropriate happy ending.

Author:Mary Stewart
Date published:1988
Number of pages:289
Notes:repeat reading


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