Renee at It’s Book Talk began this meme as a way to share old favourites, as well as books that were published over a year ago. Not to mention those that are languishing on the to be read pile for whatever reason.
This week I’m revisiting Leap The Wild Water, a debut and the first book in a historical fiction trilogy, published in 2013.
Leap The Wild Water is the story of Megan Jones and her brother, Morgan. Each tell the story in the first person, from the past and present, in their own voices and from their own perspectives. This is excellently written and drew me into their lives from the start. I could feel the emotions, which are so vividly described.
Both Megan and Morgan are wrestling with feelings of deep frustration made worse by their inability to change anything. Megan’s anger and resentment of the treatment meted out by her mother and her desire for a life of her own. Morgan’s weakness in not standing up to his mother when he knows deep down she is in the wrong, and his consequential suffering for the outcome of their actions and behaviour towards Megan. Stealing his sister’s child away is bad enough, but placing her in the ‘care’ of a lazy and abusive woman, while letting Megan believe her daughter is living with a good and loving family, is shocking. But their cruel and domineering mother has no qualms at all, having already deviously put a stop to her marriage.
Women are no different to horses. They need a tight rein but they also need to run free sometimes. Too much control is as bad as too little, it makes them unmanageable. You have to get the balance right. Megan was too spirited and proud for Mam’s sort of handling. The tighter Mam drew in the reins, the more Megan would pull against them. Our Mam knew that well enough, but she could never resist forcing Megan to bend to her will. So it’s not like I don’t understand that our Mam pushed Megan too far, with her taunting and controlling. And now I know that it was Mam herself who prevented that marriage, while rubbing Megan’s nose in it, it makes it all the worse. But Megan pulled too far and we’ve all paid the price for that.
Now Eli is back and Megan is set on marrying her childhood sweetheart, the man she always trusted she would marry until she believed Eli had jilted her. Now she knows differently. Their mother is dead and Morgan is concerned about how he’ll keep the farm going if Megan leaves, and he resorts to trying persuade her to stay with talk of bringing her daughter home. Believing her child to be well looked after Megan doesn’t want to uproot her from all she knows and besides, Eli knows nothing of her lapse. Megan tried, half heartedly, to tell him but decided things were best left alone. Now, with Morgan’s interference Megan can only see one way out.
Leap The Wild Water is a powerfully moving and beautifully written story, highlighting the struggles, controls and restrictions women were subjected to and had little choice but to endure. Men ruled, life was harsh and women were more or less in servitude to their families. As more of Megan’s story unfolds it’s painfully obvious just how much intolerance and injustice towards women was commonplace and, in some cases, controlled by the power and fear of chapel and preacher. The stigma and shame of having a child out of wedlock was too much for some to bear, the limited choices they had are heart breaking in the extreme.
Megan and Morgan are compelling, believable and well defined, their personalities and thoughts laid bare. Each character is represented authentically, some garnering more sympathy than others, perfectly placed in the sweeping remoteness of the stunning and atmospheric Welsh countryside.
The plot, writing and story structure are all skilful and well crafted. It’s hard to believe Leap The Wild Water is a debut novel.
Megan Jones tries to carve a life of her own, in a community where women are neither equal nor free. Her brother, Morgan, is a man in torment; his Mam has died and he is now desperate to make amends for the terrible wrongs he has done. But what if doing the right thing would lead to his sister’s ruin? As Morgan wrestles with his conscience, Megan’s past begins to catch up with her and threatens to destroy her life. Set in early 19th century Wales, Leap the Wild Water is a dark tale of treachery, secrets, and what it means to be free. From shifting viewpoints, the stories of Megan and Morgan unfold towards a terrifying conclusion.