Song Of The Hawthorn by Beth Martin
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Song of the Hawthorn is a collection of short stories by Beth Martin, based on her experiences at Smeale Farm in Andreas, Isle of Man, which has been in the Martin family for centuries. Each tale is told from the first-person viewpoint of an animal or insect – and even by the hawthorn tree itself.
Beautifully and often wittily observed, the book is a testament to Beth’s engagement with the natural world of the farm: polecats, bees, earthworms, spiders, frogs, ravens and many more. The tale-tellers recount their lives from birth, their adventures once grown and, sometimes, their foreknowledge of their deaths. In doing so, they impart to us both facts and anxieties: the frog who must keep his body moist because he breathes through his skin, or the queen of the hive who is conscious that her life is drawing to its close and that she will soon ‘cease to bee’. Adamant Adam ant who strays too far from his own colony, or the young barn owl who must learn to hunt for herself for the first time. The earthworm underneath the plough and the ladybird caught up in the blades of the combine harvester – what will become of them?
Some tales end with a little verse. These whimsical rhymes are an extra delight and have a folksy, almost timeless, charm of their own. Watercolour illustrations by Carola Colley complement each story, entwining Beth’s creatures with celtic patterns. I particularly liked the ‘jumper-the-rumper’ frogs! All in all, a lovely book that reminds us of the inter-connectedness of life and the close affinity it is possible – in fact essential – to have with the world of nature that surrounds us even when it is hidden from view.
This collection of fictional short stories were inspired by and conceived at Smeale Farm and refined by breezes and sea salt. Narrated by the creatures that dwell in this stunning landscape, the tales explore both the joys and harsh realities of farming life and the natural world.
“There is tenderness, darkness and a wonderful wry humour in these vivid tales which are bursting with life. From an adventuring ant to the polecat who didn’t like chicken, we are right there with Beth Martin’s tale-tellers, tasting, touching and smelling the world in a myriad different ways. Beth has a way of turning the ordinary into something extraordinary, getting under the skin of each character and enabling us to experience their lives in a way that’s full of wonder, without shying away from the often harsh realities of nature.” – Janet Lees, poet, artist and facilitator of creative writing classes
“What a delight! Beth’s stories display their knowledge with a light and engaging touch, witty, charming and sometimes shocking as the realities of animal and insect life are revealed. From the new earthworm beginning its life in a ‘rice-grain of a cocoon’ to the queen of the hive who will soon ‘cease to bee’, Beth lays bare the life cycle of the natural world around her farm in all its teeming and relentless glory.” – Vicky Lloyd-West, co-author of Story from Stone
About the author
Beth grew up on a dairy farm and went on to study agriculture at Bangor University in Wales. She swore she would never marry a farmer. Somehow she did just that but at least he was a sheep and arable farmer with no milking involved.
Steeped in history, Smeale Farm has been her home for many years and provided the inspiration for this collection of short stories. Covid 19 lockdown boredom gave her the time and incentive to write them down before she might expire. She hopes you will enjoy reading the tales as much as she enjoyed immersing herself in the lives of these extraordinary beings that we mostly take for granted.
About the Illustrator
Carola is a multi disciplinary artist who knows Smeale inside out, having spent many happy childhood moments staying with her grandparents who lived there, and later lived there for years herself, running art workshops just round the corner from Smeale Farm. Manx landscape, myth and histories have always provided huge inspiration to all her work and informed her illustrations for these stories.