It probably comes as no surprise that I adore an atmospheric novel entrenched in its place (and often in time). I’d say that’s true of most historical novelists. But it isn’t just about beautiful description to me, it’s about unique detailing that evokes emotion that soaks into the folds of your mind and roots in your memory.
Let me share a few examples of how Lisa does this so beautifully in her novel. I love the passage where we first get to “meet” the church Our Lady of the Kilmoon. I use the word “meet” as the church is, in fact, a character.
“…stained with mossy grime that had aged her past her years. The relic was hardly bigger than Kevin’s cottage but with a moody presence nonetheless as she watched over her graves. Her thatched roof had disintegrated long ago because only rock tolerated the Irish rainscape. Yet, even her hearty walls had started to succumb to the elements….In the neighboring sheep pasture, a pre-Celtic standing stone glowed orange in the growing light. The obelisk appeared more permanent than Our Lady…it shared space with livestock and rock walls and blackthorn, while the church, though picturesque, usurped space as if she knew she didn’t belong and must protect her parcel of land all the more for it.”
I immediately picked up on a sense of desperation and isolation, and the weathering element of time that erodes not only landscape, but all of us. What’s more, I’ll never be able to erase the image from my mind of that crumbling church, clinging to its existence in that lush, yet lonely field.
Here’s another passage that struck me when Kate is about to approach the matchmaker:
“Kate hummed in satisfaction, inhaling the scent of overheated lamb and the more subtle fragrances that wafted in over the harvesting fields. September could be one of the best months of the year. The sunny afternoons and slow twilight, the snap in the air, the sense of all of summer’s ultra-violet energy reaching a stored-up peak before the rain started in earnest.”
Even in a brooding sort of story, complete with murder and fault-riddled characters (in a good way), we see hope and a moment’s contentment in this passage. Kate becomes Merrit’s (protag) foil here. Also, this scene transports me to my favorite time of year where I live in New England—a fall with those harvest smells and the “snap in the air”. Lisa has not only made the landscape of Ireland come alive, but she’s made it relatable to me in a very real way.
In short, I can’t wait to read the next in the series (or anything else she writes for that matter)!
How important is setting to you when you’re reading? And what about when you’re writing?