Six for Sunday: Books to take on an Autumn walk
I love Autumn, especially those bright, crisp days when you can crunch through the leaves and enjoy the jewel-like colours of the foliage as the sun sparkles through them. Pairing books with a walk through an Autumn forest, plus perhaps a nice warm drink, sounds like the perfect way to spend a day!
Here are a few books I would love to take with me on an Autumn walk:
The Good People by Hannah Kent
County Kerry, Ireland, 1825.
Nóra, bereft after the sudden death of her beloved husband, finds herself alone and caring for her young grandson Micheál. Micheál cannot speak and cannot walk and Nóra is desperate to know what is wrong with him. What happened to the healthy, happy grandson she met when her daughter was still alive?
Mary arrives in the valley to help Nóra just as the whispers are spreading: the stories of unexplained misfortunes, of illnesses, and the rumours that Micheál is a changeling child who is bringing bad luck to the valley.
Nance’s knowledge keeps her apart. To the new priest, she is a threat, but to the valley people she is a wanderer, a healer. Nance knows how to use the plants and berries of the woodland; she understands the magic in the old ways. And she might be able to help Micheál.
As these three women are drawn together in the hope of restoring Micheál, their world of folklore and belief, of ritual and stories, tightens around them. It will lead them down a dangerous path, and force them to question everything they have ever known.
“Kent conjures up with exceptional intensity and empathy a world in which folk beliefs hold as much sway over people’s minds as religious faith . . . It would have been all too easy to present this story as a conflict between rational enlightenment and peasant superstition, but the main strength of Kent’s narrative is that it avoids such a simple dichotomy. ‘I have told you my truth,’ Nance tells the court during the trial scenes that provide the book’s climax. Such is the power of Kent’s imaginative sympathy with her characters that this becomes not merely the mantra of a deluded old woman, but a moving statement of her continuing faith in her own vision of the way the world works . . . The Good People is an even better novel than Burial Rites — a starkly realised tale of love, grief and misconceived beliefs.”
Not only is this one that I have been meaning to read for ages, but the themes of folk tales and folk beliefs make me think of the evenings drawing down and people coming closer to a fire to share their stories. I must get to this one this Autumn!
A Pocketful of Crows by Joanne M. Harris
I am as brown as brown can be,
And my eyes as black as sloe;
I am as brisk as brisk can be,
And wild as forest doe.
(The Child Ballads, 295)
So begins a beautiful tale of love, loss and revenge. Following the seasons, A Pocketful of Crows balances youth and age, wisdom and passion and draws on nature and folklore to weave a stunning modern mythology around a nameless wild girl.
Only love could draw her into the world of named, tamed things. And it seems only revenge will be powerful enough to let her escape.
Beautifully illustrated by Bonnie Helen Hawkins, this is a stunning and original modern fairytale.
I absolutely love this book and have reread it several times – another reread might be in order to match the season! It is poetic, lyrical and utterly absorbing as you are drawn into the world of the ‘wild girl’ and watch events unfurling around her. Not only that, but the small edition is perfect to slip into a coat pocket for a walk!
The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
A world divided.
A queendom without an heir.
An ancient enemy awakens.
The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction—but assassins are getting closer to her door.
Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic.
Across the dark sea, Tané has trained all her life to be a dragonrider, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel.
Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.
This maybe isn’t the best choice because it is huge and heavy, but something about it seems like the perfect book to read outside, surrounded by trees and nature! I will admit that I have been intimidated to start this due to the size and length, but I am planning to read it soon!
The Hollow Tree by James Brogden
After losing her hand in a tragic accident, Rachel is plagued by vivid nightmares of a hollow tree, and a hand reaching from it, begging her for help. Terrified that she is going mad, Rachel experiences phantom sensations of leaves, trees, and finally a hand that grasps hers and pulls a young woman into Rachel’s world. She has no idea of who she is, but Rachel can’t help but think of the local legend of Oak Mary, the corpse of a woman found hidden in a hollow tree, and who was never identified. Three myths have grown up around the body; was she a spy, a prostitute or a murdered gypsy? Rachel is desperate to learn the truth, but darker forces are at work. For a rule has been broken, and Mary is in a world where she doesn’t belong…
This was a truly creepy and clever book which constantly made me wonder about who, if anyone, was telling the truth and drew on several local urban legends to make it feel very real. Definitely a great read for this time of year, although it may make you look at hollow trees a little differently than before!
The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.
Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.
At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.
Until one day, he does…
As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?
This book has so many things I love – a setting in the woods, inspiration from fairytales, fae who are capricious and cruel rather than sparkly and sweet and strong, although not always likeable characters. Definitely worth a read if you are looking for a slightly-creepy fairytale for autumnal reading!
The Hawkweed Prophecy by Irena Brignull
The babies were born as the clock struck twelve. A bat fell from the air mid-flight. A silver salmon floated dead to the surface of the river. Snails withered in their shells, moths turned to dust on the night breeze and an owl ate its young. The spell had been cast.
Poppy Hooper has managed to deceive her father into believing that there is nothing mysterious or unnatural about her. He ignores the cats that find her wherever she goes, the spiders that weave beautiful lacy patterns for her, even her eyes – one blue, one green with an extra black dot orbiting the pupil.
Ember Hawkweed is a pitiful excuse for a witch. When the other girls in her coven brew vile potions, Ember makes soap and perfume. Fair and pretty, Ember is more like a chaff than a witch. One of the Hawkweeds will be queen of the witches – but everyone knows it won’t be Ember.
When the two girls meet, Poppy discovers her powers, and finds out the truth. Bound by their unlikely friendship and the boy they both love, the girls try and find their place in the world. But the time of the prophecy draws nearer – and the witches won’t give up the throne without a fight.
I have a weakness for books about witches anyway, so I really loved this!
Poppy has always known that she doesn’t fit in, especially as she finds it tough to make friends when strange things happen around her when she gets angry or emotional. Cats and spiders gather wherever she goes and her own mother becomes convinced that Poppy is something unnatural and wrong.
At the far side of the country, yet born at the same moment, Ember is born into a prestigious witching family, with a prophecy that either she or her cousin Sorrel will be the next Queen of the Witches. Yet, blood terrifies her and she is unable to catch even the most simple of spells. At the moment of their birth, these two girls have switched places and now events are unravelling and pushing them together.
As much as I loved Leo, I wasn’t a massive fan of the love triangle, particularly as I loved the idea of the sisterly bond between Poppy and Ember. Though at times the pace slowed, this book kept me enthralled so I am excited to read Book 2! A great read for this time of year!
Which books would you take with you on an Autumn walk?
Do you have any favourites that you like to curl up with when it starts to get chilly outside?
Which books remind you of Autumn?
Let me know in the comments!
While you’re here, why not check out my 5 Autumn essentials, how to say Autumn Leaves in ten languages, a tutorial to make adorable Autumn peg doll animals or my book reviews of A Different Pond, A Treason of Thorns, The Light Between Worlds or To Kill a Kingdom?
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