Title: The Silver Well
Author: Kate Forsyth and Kim Wilkins
Genre: Historical Fiction/Short Stories/Fantasy
Publisher: Ticonderoga Press
Published: 22nd November 2017
Synopsis: The Silver Well marks a milestone achievement for two best-selling legends of Australian fantasy, having both published their first novels in 1997. Kate Forsyth and Kim Wilkins have teamed up in this collection of 7 incredible stories, all original and never-before published.
One English village. Two thousand years of stories.
People have always come to make wishes at the Silver Well: in Pagan times and Christian, during revolution and war. When Rosie arrives in the tiny village of Cerne Abbas with a broken heart, she becomes connected across the centuries with others who have yearned for something. Seven stories, set in seven time periods, reveal the deepest longings of the human heart.
- Prologue – The Wishing Tree
- The Blessing
- My Sister’s Ghost
- The True Confession of Obedience-to-God Ashe
- The Cunning Woman’s Daughter
- The End of Everything
- The Giant
- Epilogue – The Past is Not Dead
“One tale at a time, Kate Forsyth and Kim Wilkins immerse us in the fabled waters of Cerne Abbas, plunging us deeper and deeper into the lore of this village, further and further into its past. Here we meet a cast of characters whose lives span two millennia–charming artists and shopkeepers, forsaken lovers, cunning-women, severe Puritans, proud warriors, shell-shocked soldiers, bereft parents, fierce and fragile children, and many generations of Brightwells. Across the ages we hear their carefully hidden thoughts. Their worries and fears. Their hopes and losses.” — From the introduction by Lisa L. Hannett
In 2017, Rosie Brightwell arrives in Cerne Abbas following being left at the altar. Here, she meets Isobel at the markets, and a young man, who begins to tell her a series of stories going back through the years and centuries, back two thousand years, going backwards in time from the Second World War to 44 AD, all centred around the same village and well.
Each story is linked by the village, the well, and the women of the Brightwell family. From artists, to warriors, shopkeepers, and lovers. To a Puritanical story where the family is hauled into the world of the witch trials. Throughout the stories, the village grows, but as they cleverly move backwards throughout time, it feels like as a reader, you are an archaeologist, peeling back the layers of time, century by century, and across one thousand years. It is as though with each layer of the archaeological site, such as at Knossos or Troy, new secrets are revealed and linked to what is already known, until the origins look as though they might be discovered, and they are each told in first person as the ancestors and layers are uncovered and revealed, and Kate Forsyth and Kim Wilkins have brilliantly crafted this selection of short stories, invoking history, magic and fantasy, linked together by one family, and it is Rosie’s opening and concluding stories that connect the centuries and years together, solving a mystery she never thought she had as she talks with the mysterious young man who tells her about the Brightwell family.
The one story not told from a female perspective, but still linking the village of Cerne Abbas with the other stories is My Sister’s Ghost, narrated by Joseph. This one is a little less clear on the Brightwell connection, but it is still there, in the background as Rosie digs and finds out about the village. My Sister’s Ghost has a larger paranormal element than the other stories and revolves around a family tragedy that eventually connects to the Brightwells, but in a less obvious way than the other stories. Nonetheless, they are all connected by people and place, and this is what makes them work together as each historical layer is revealed, as though through a time machine or archaeological dig.
This is Kate Forsyth’s fortieth book, and the thirtieth book for Kim Wilkins. I’m more familiar with Kate’s work, but the seamlessness of the stories shows that Kate and Kim work well together and have carefully crafted each story so they not only flow into and towards each other but are also their own worlds and stories within a larger one. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and the magic within the stories. It is a wonderful addition to my Kate Forsyth collection, and one that I definitely hope to revisit sometime.