I had the pleasure of reading an advance copy of Alison Croggon’s newest novel, Black Spring. It is her love story to Wuthering Heights. Did she honor the classic? I can’t answer that, as I have never read Wuthering Heights. What I can comment on though is that Croggon has delivered a dark, beautiful, bittersweet tale that is excellently written with wonderful, complex characters.
The gentleman Hammel decides to leave the city for a time and heads up north, to a beautiful small house in a strange small town. There he encounters his miserable, terrifying landlord, Damek, and a mysterious, beautiful, violet-eyed woman staring back at him from a mirror. Frightened and intrigued, he questions the woman running his house, Anna, and she reaccounts for him the terrible sad tale of the love affair between a witch-girl and her best-friend-turned-lover, and her ultimate death.
I should say out the gate that this is not a light, happy book. People who like endings that sit warm and good in the soul might want to steer clear of this story. Having said that, this book was a fantastic read, and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants great writing and intriguing characters. Lina, the witch-girl, was a strong, willful, breathtaking character, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing how her life began, rose, and fell, ending in her death. It was definitely a bit odd, knowing the ending before seeing how we got there, and the conclusion of this story was always in the back of my mind, helped along by Anna’s occasional foreboding.
Croggon visits a more classic writing style, and it definitely took me a few pages to get into it, since I usually read more straightforward, less artistic language. But once I got into the story, the language was a treat. This book felt like dessert, the words sweet in my mind. It was an absolute pleasure to read.
The magic in this world was awesome and intense, but it wasn’t the focus of the story, not really. Though present in various forms throughout the tale, and helping move the tale forward, the story really is about love. About loss. About what it means to be completely enamored with someone, and to choose them, despite any and all consequences.
This story left me both light and heavy at the same time. Will I read it again? Not anytime soon. But that’s because the story will stay with me. I’m glad I made the journey with Anna, Hammel, Lina and Damek, and I encourage you to do the same; Black Spring was well worth every moment spent reading it.
Out today, Tuesday August 27th, 2013 (it was published earlier in Australia).