I have a review of Gast by Carol Swain up at No Flying No Tights today. I thought this book was something very special.
Helen has just moved to rural Wales with her parents. She’s quiet and solitary, but she isn’t shy. She’s the kind of child whose mother must ask her not to bring any more dying animals to the house. Helen loves watching nature and recording her observations and theories in her journal, as well as the Welsh words she’s learned: “gwennol” is the name for the bird that we call a swallow, and “gast” is Welsh for woman. New to the language, Helen initially thinks the egg seller from town is talking about a dead bird when he mentions Emrys: “A rare bird. Down by here. Cuddig. I don’t know what he’d be called… took his own life… Upset my birds terrible it did.” Soon enough, she realizes he’s referring to a neighbor who committed suicide, and her inquisitive nature leads to an exploration of human life and death.