Newest Review: ... lived up to all this hype. The novel is readable but I was by no means blown away. I don't want to give too many spoilers in case anyone... more
I could take it or leave it
The Earth Hums in B Flat - Mari Strachan
Member Name: helenc72
The Earth Hums in B Flat - Mari Strachan
Advantages: Readable, fairly entertaining, lovely cover
Disadvantages: Unbelievable and annoying narrator
I saw this novel at a book fair a couple of weeks ago and although I had never heard of it before, it caught my eye. I liked the title "The Earth Hums in B Flat" which sounded interesting and the cover design is just lovely. As you can see from the thumbnail image above, there are glowing colours, a nice handwriting font and very positive reviews such as "sparkling" (The Guardian) and "gorgeous" (Marie Claire). I had to pick it up and take a closer look.
The back cover explains that it is a mystery told from the point of view of Gwenni Morgan, an imaginative 12 year old who lives in a sleepy Welsh town. I noticed that it was recommended by Catherine O'Flynn, author of What Was Lost, which I really enoyed and which also includes a child detective. The Earth Hums seemed to be highly rated by all the big newspapers. I had really high hopes and thought I might have discovered a real gem.
Unfortunately, I don't think it quite lived up to all this hype. The novel is readable but I was by no means blown away.
I don't want to give too many spoilers in case anyone does want to read it in spite of my neutral review, but the mystery story line mainly focuses on a local man who goes missing, his family who Gwenni is friendly with as the mum is her teacher and she babysits for their kids and it shows how other people in the town are involved in various ways. Gwenni's home life is also a big focus as well as her relationship with her best friend Alwenna, who is growing up more quickly than Gwenni and starts to grow apart from her. Towards the end of the book some more adult themes of mental illness get a lot of attention. I think the plot was fairly solid and it did hold my attention, although parts of it were a little slow moving towards the middle.
My main gripe with this book was that some of the characters were not believeable. Gwenni is supposed to be 12 but I think it must have been a long time since the author was that age! I find it hard to believe that a 12 year old would be as naive as Gwenni is. She is very babyish in the way she acts, talks and thinks. I genuinely just found myself rolling my eyes at her constantly. She has no understanding of what is appropriate behaviour and she believes in things which a 12 year old wouldn't, for example she believes she can fly, that the jugs on the shelf at home are alive and watching her, that a neighbour's fox stole needs to be buried so that the fox's soul can go to heaven... She refuses to see the obvious when it is right in front of her and even though she wants to be a detective and constantly reads crime novels, she has a very simple and innocent view of everything. Even when the ugly truth about a crime is staring her in the face it does not occur to her that anything might be wrong. The reality is obvious to the reader from early on, but it is only confirmed at a late stage when Gwenni finally grasps it. I found myself sympathising with her mum, sister and best friend who wonder fairly often why Gwenni has to be so "odd". The Independent on Sunday described it as "authentically quirky" which I would really disagree with. Yes there is some quirkiness but it seems contrived.
The character of the mum is a potentially interesting one, but we don't really get under her skin and I feel that a lot more development would have been possible there. Equally, we never really get any insight into the dad's feelings in a difficult situation at the end of the story.
I did like the Welsh setting and the fact that some Welsh words were included, such as Tada for Dad and Nain for Grandma.
It is a shame when you have high hopes for a book and they don't live up to it (another noteable instance of this recently was When God Was A Rabbit, a great title on a book which was slightly lacking) but I did enjoy this book to some extent and was happy to continue to the end. For the cheap price I paid second hand it was an alright read, but I would have been a bit disappointed if I had paid full price in Waterstones. I don't think I would ever read it a second time.
Summary: Okay if you want a quick read, but not the best