The Faerie Thorn and Other Stories review by Anne Hailes
We have a fairy thorn tree at the bottom of the garden and we pay it respect, talk to it when it needs a trim, explain it’s to keep it healthy, greet it every time we pass. But thanks to Jane Talbot I’ve had a glance at what goes on at the root of this magical tree and it’s a bit scary.
The Faerie Thorn and Other Stories is her first book and it’s a cracker. Not a children’s book of fairy stories but for adults and in the true tradition there’s love and hate, gentleness and brutality and a language to gladden your soul.
The opening paragraph hooks the reader: ‘A silvery cartwheel of plump harvest moons ago, in the large mossy space between a tick and a tock, there lived a farmer called Man Donaghy. He was one of the Big People, all black-haired and broad and handsome-strong, with the dark, urgent eyes of a hungry dog.’ Beautiful and evocative.
He and Wife Donaghy ached for a child without success so he became cold and cruel towards her and went looking for a younger replacement. And what of his wife? He offered her to the Little People who lived hidden beneath the Faerie Thorn. What happened next is a lesson to men like Man Donaghy who became ‘deep-ditch desperate’ as the ghastly trolls transform him into a bone-ghost while the first Wife Donaghy thrived.
Only last year Jane took a notion to learn about tree lore. Originally from Wiltshire, she fell in love with a man from Northern Ireland and moved to live on his farm and there found a faerie thorn. Although not a believer in the little people, she visited the tree morning and evening and after an early twilight visit she went back to bed for a while. “And when I woke up I was astonished to find that a fully formed story about the faerie thorn was in my head.”
And so began her adventure around the North Antrim coast discovering and researching hidden stories. “One year on I have a sense that I’m living in a place that is full of stories waiting to be told. I feel at home – and I may actually believe in faeries too.” I think she might because once her book was finished she took an offering of Bushmills whiskey and cream for the underground dwellers: “ They took the whiskey and left the cream!”
The Faerie Thorn is available to buy at Waterstones here.
Review by Anne Hailes