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The Earth Hums in B Flat Paperback – 6 May 2010


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Product details

  • Paperback: 346 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd; Main edition (6 May 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847673058
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847673053
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (176 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 24,760 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

'I loved this debut, which manages to give a young girl's narrative an authentically quirky aspect, without ever resorting to cutesiness or cosiness ... Strachan eschews whimsy for reality in a beautifully written story about growing up.' Independent on Sunday

About the Author

Mari Strachan has been immersed in books all her life. She has worked as a librarian in academic, school, public, private and prison libraries. She has also been a book reviewer, researcher, translator, copy writer and web editor. She and her husband live part-time on a tiny smallholding in the hills of Ceredigion, West Wales, and part-time on a narrowboat on the Grand Union Canal in London, where much of The Earth Hums in B Flat was written.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

160 of 165 people found the following review helpful By Voracious reader on 9 Mar 2009
Format: Paperback
The book starts gently, easing the reader into the world of Gwenni Morgan, a young girl who is fascinated by everything and everyone around her. The author, Strachan, introduces a splendidly entertaining cast of misfits and eccentrics, made all the more entertaining because they feel so real. In 1950s Welsh village life, everyone knows everyone's business but no-one ever says a thing.

Gwenni is a wide-eyed, captivated observer of everything that goes on. She describes the people, their clothes, their mannerisms - often in hilarious terms but always in manner consistent with her charming character. Strachan does a splendid job of maintaining Gwenni's voice and personality throughout.

It is this attention to detail that makes the story so beguiling. It quickly gathers pace with a missing man, police enquiries and a murder investigation all careering headlong into a surprising - and yet entirely logical - climax.

This is one of those books you read at one sitting, tea and biscuits at your side and a big 'Do Not Disturb' notice on the door. Superb.
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93 of 100 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on 23 Feb 2009
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
According to Wikipedia, an ingénue is "a girl or a young woman who is endearingly innocent and wholesome". She is generally accompanied, as foil, by a vamp and there is often a romantic subplot featuring a young man just as innocent as the ingénue.

On this template, Mari Strachan has constructed a beautiful story set in a small Welsh village within sight of Snowdon in the late 1950s.

The ingénue is Gwenni Morgan, poised at the very end of childhood, who is bright, imaginative and therefore considered "odd" by her stolid peers, mother and sister. Her Kindred Spirit and Best Friend, Alwenna, is the knowing vamp, who has just discovered boys. Gwenni's `romantic interest' comes towards the end and is hardly that, a merest precursor for what is to come.

It is a truth universally understood that remote rural villages are hotbeds of illicit relationships overlaid with secrets and lies. The death of one of the villagers leads to an investigation and Gwenni is determined to play detective. Her relentless, innocent "childish" questions directly challenge the protective hypocrisy all around. It's scary stuff.

Ms Strachan has a wonderful feel for poverty in the 1950s. Her descriptions of the Morgans' domestic life: bed-sharing, paper thin walls, freezing cold, disgusting food, baths in front of the fire, a relentless lack of privacy, draw one into a life before this one. I am old enough to remember this the first time round and it certainly felt horribly authentic.

The plot is carefully handled, and the book rapidly becomes a real page turner.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Ian Thomas TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 25 Mar 2009
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The first thing I noticed when reading "The Earth Hums in B Flat", the debut novel by Mari Strachan, is that the author entered the mindset of a girl on the brink of adolescence in an utterly convincing manner.

Set in Wales in the 1950s, "The Earth Hums in B Flat" is a tale told in the first person of Gwenni, a young girl who is considered 'odd' by her mother and older sister, mainly due to her over-active imagination and her need to know the truth. Her innocent curiosity into the adult world and the way grown-ups behave compels her to turn detective when a local man is murdered.

While Gwenni is clearly still clinging on to parts of childhood (her doll, her daydreaming) she is also forced into adulthood almost against her will (finding out that a boy likes her, starting her periods, looking after her family). The reader is shown this transition in all its painful awkwardness. The way Gwenni escapes from her troubles and her suffocating family life is to imagine herself flying above the village whilst listening to the earth sing. This imagery is stunning.

As a reader, you find yourself in the unique position of knowing more than your heroine. I understood what was happening to the village and Gwenni's family and why her parents were acting and reacting in the way they were before Gwenni did, and it was interesting to watch her work things out in her own way. As it turns out, Gwenni is an extremely clever young lady who understands her community better than anyone else as she learns to ignore the local gossips and uncover the truth, even though ultimately it is a truth that must remain hidden.

I think "The Earth Hums in B Flat" is a beautifully written and utterly compelling book.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Littlepig Littlepig on 15 Aug 2009
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is an interesting book because it has many different strands. The problem is that the strands are never really brought together to a satisfactory conclusion, so I put down this book feeling a little let-down. On the surface, it's an original and excellent premise: young Gwenni, who either has supernatural 'flying' powers or a very vivid imagination, is growing up in poverty in 1950s Wales with a loving father, a selfish older sister and an irascible mother. When a member of the village is killed this sets the ball rolling for a family secret to be unveiled and Gwenni's life is irrevocably altered, though maybe not for the worse.

Strachan's attention to detail is beautiful and her prose is evocative. Gwenni is an enchanting character. Her imagination is a joy to the reader (the Toby jugs were my favourite characters!) and you quickly become fond of her. However, the reader is never quite sure that they really know her. Beyond her imagination she has no characteristics which make her fully rounded.

I wanted to stay up late to finish the book, but ultimately I was left dissatisfied on several accounts. The "coming of age" promised with the revelations about boys and sex never really materialises; the characters of the best friend and sister are two-dimensional; the behaviour of Gwenni's sister and mother is never taken to task and is just accepted, which I found unrealistic; and the book fizzes out, rather than coming to a satisfying conclusion. On the whole the story was warm and promising, but didn't deliver on all counts. I would certainly read a second book by this author, but for a more solid and enjoyable read of childhood try A Jarful of Angels by Babs Horton.
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