Tag Archives: Cornwall

The Path to the Sea by Liz Fenwick

HQ | 2019 (6 June) | 423p | Review copy | Buy the book

The Path to the Sea by Liz FenwickBoskenna is a beautiful house, standing proud on a Cornish cliff, a place of comfort and security for three generations of Trewin women – grandmother Joan, her daughter Diana and Diana’s daughter Lottie. Each of them has spent long periods of time away from the house – and from each other – but they’re always drawn back to it. But now they gather together for a final time because Joan is dying. This is the last chance for Diana to work out her differences with her mother and it’s the only chance Lottie, herself on the run from events in London, has to learn the truth about her family and what happened that terrible August in 1962.

Liz Fenwick writes beautifully. She pours her heart into her novels and their characters and The Path to the Sea is no different. Cornwall is a special place to this author and she fills the novel with its colours, sea air, beauty and wildness. It’s all extremely appealing and this is enhanced in The Path to the Sea by such an intriguing and fascinating story, which is slowly and carefully revealed to us and to the Trewin women.

The narrative is divided between Joan, Diana and Lottie, which means that we move between the present day and the early 1960s when family and friends gather to celebrate the birthday of Diana’s father. Something terrible happens which destroys the relationship between Joan and her daughter, something that has been kept hidden from Lottie. But there are clues in Boskenna, which open up the past to Lottie and remind Diana of a childhood that was filled with love.

There’s something extra and unexpected in The Path to the Sea, which I particularly loved. Much of the novel is set in the early 1960s, the Cold War, and this is when Joan’s character comes to the fore and we realise what an exciting, glamorous daring woman she was, who had dabbled in danger. It’s brilliant stuff and it kept me guessing! And it makes the scenes set in the present day all the more poignant and upsetting as we learn that not all is as it seems.

The Path to the Sea would make the perfect summer holiday read. The Cornish setting is stunning and the structure of the novel – with its three generations of one family – is very effective and involving. It’s luscious, glamorous, tragic, uplifting, with an intriguing puzzle at its heart. Fabulous!

Other review
The Returning Tide

Guest post: The inspiration of Cornwall by Amanda Jennings, author of In Her Wake

One of this year’s most unforgettable reads will undoubtedly be In Her Wake by Amanda Jennings, a beautifully written novel of such elegance and emotional impact. Published earlier in April by Orenda Books, this wonderful book is now available – you can read my review here. I’m delighted to host a guest post by Amanda as part of the celebratory blog tour and I am particularly pleased that Amanda has written about the novel’s Cornish setting and inspiration. Cornwall – including Zennor – is a place that means a great deal to me and a year wouldn’t be well done without our annual July pilgrimage. After reading In Her Wake, I will look at Zennor and its little mermaid with fresh, inspired eyes.

The inspiration of Cornwall

In Her Wake by Amanda JenningsI adore Cornwall and am proudly half-Cornish. In fact, if I could swap my Pinner-half for a second Cornish-half, I would without thinking (sorry, Dad!). I’ve spent summers, Christmases, and half-terms in Cornwall since I was born. I love the passionate landscape, the raging sea, the heat of an August day on the beach. I love pasties and crab sandwiches and tea out of thermos flasks whilst huddled beneath an umbrella on a rainy harbour wall. I love searching out seashells which lie nestled in the sand and sea-glass, smoothed by continuous tumbling breaking waves. I love those rare glimpses of seals playing in the shallows and the ruined tin mines, crumbling relics of a bygone industry, that punctuate the scrub. And I also love the ancient stories and legends that soak the this far corner of England.

From giants and pixies, to King Arthur and the Beast of Bodmin moor, Cornwall has a rich heritage of tales and superstitions. Unsurprisingly, being surrounded by sea on three sides, and with a history full of smugglers, piracy, and an economy reliant on fishing, there are many legends linked to the sea, and mermaids make regular appearances in local legends.

My mother comes from Penzance, but now has a house in Zennor, a beautiful hamlet on the coastal path between St Ives and Treen. It has a traditional pub complete with a crackling fire when it’s cold and glorious garden where you can sip cider in the sunshine. There’s a church, too. And in this church is a bench and on this bench is a carving of a mermaid. She’s the Mermaid – or Merrymaid – of Zennor, and I have always loved her story.

One day, from beneath the waves, she hears a man singing in the church choir. His voice is so exquisite she falls instantly in love and so leaves her underwater realm and swims up the stream that flows into the sea, and then, transforming her tail into legs, she walks into the church and sits at the back to listen to him, night after night, each evening falling deeper and deeper in love. Eventually she reveals herself to him and he is equally smitten and, pursued by angry villagers, they run back to the sea where they spend the rest of their days together. The stream in the story runs through my parents’ garden in Zennor, and because of this the legend has always held particular fascination for me.

I first had the idea of In Her Wake – or The Merrymaid and I as it was back then – about ten years ago. I wanted to upend a woman’s life. I wanted her to discover everything she knew about her upbringing was a lie and that her roots were not in quiet, sleepy Oxfordshire, but in this magical place, in Cornwall. Even in these early beginnings, I knew I wanted to include the Merrymaid’s story. At the beginning her role was reasonably insignificant, but as the narrative took shape her presence became stronger. Her story, her desperation to find love in an alien world, became a mirror for my protagonist’s search for her true identity, until gradually reality and myth became woven together. In the book, past and present merge inextricably with myth, so that Bella, the protagonist, has to sift through the confusion in order to find out who she really is, emerging – hopefully – like a phoenix from the ashes. Or perhaps in this case, a mermaid from the waves.

Thanks so much, Amanda! For other stops on this epic tour, please take a look at the poster below.
In Her Wake blog tour poster