The Covenant is a powerful novel, which gobsmacked me with the fierce emotions of its characters and the immutable future of unending work and forced acceptance of their fate by women in the period of this story. This is a prequel to the author’s best-selling A Time for Silence and is a must-read.
Written in first person, the author has created in Leah Owen, the middle daughter of a farmer in Wales at the close of the 19th century, a woman burdened by both love and duty. Her father, Tom Owen, is a tenant farmer on twenty-four acres, one rood and eight perches of stony, hilly land, and together with his oldest son, barely ekes out a subsistence for his family. The farm – Cwmderwen (and I wish I could pronounce it!) – and its house are very real characters in the story, setting a grim, rundown background as the result of debt and poor harvest.
Leah has hopes. As the middle daughter, she will be able to marry and leave Cwmderwen to lead her own life. Her oldest sister, a strangely quiet and dour woman, will remain behind to care for her parents. When the oldest son Tom dies, largely because of the ignorance of his father, the father, always pious, becomes a religious zealot. He drives his lazy youngest son, Frank, away. When both the oldest and youngest daughter marry and her mother dies, Leah is left to take care of her increasingly maniacal father, even when love comes her way. She is forced to follow a path of servitude and disappointments to a grim future. Tom Owen’s grandson, John – son of the wastrel Frank – becomes a miniature of his grandfather, claiming his covenant with God in keeping the farm and determined to keep the increasingly unproductive farm.
What possible future does Leah have? Can she remain dutiful, even to Frank and her nephew, bound as she is by the community, church and custom? And how can she survive when her every dream is crushed by her family.
The author does an impressive job creating a background of isolated and rural Pembrokeshire, the changing seasons and vicissitudes of farming. The detail never becomes heavy but is integral to the story. Her ability to create depth in her characters, their beliefs and piety, and the changes and occasional joys in their lives is exceptional. The reader lives in Leah’s being and the feelings are at times overwhelming.
This is a book with a wallop, and I recommend it as an exceptional read.
About the author:
Thorne Moore grew up in Luton, near London, but has lived in Pembrokeshire in West Wales for the last 35 years. She writes psychological crime, or domestic noir, with a historical twist, focusing on the cause and consequences of crimes rather than on the details of the crimes themselves. A Time For Silence, set in Pembrokeshire, was published by Honno in 2012. It was followed by Motherlove and The Unravelling, set partly in a fictional version of Luton. Shadows, published by Endeavour in 2017, is set in an old house in Pembrokeshire, and is paired with Long Shadows, which explained the history and mysteries of the same house from Medieval times to the late Victorian period.
She belongs to a group of female Welsh writers who founded Honno Welsh Women’s Press with a goal of seeing see that women in Wales have a wider opportunity to see their writing in print.
You can find Thorne Moore:
On Twitter: @ThorneMoore
On her website: https://thornemoore.com/
On Facebook videos: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=608140386514466
And on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thorne.moore.7/
You can find The Covenant on Amazon: