There are so many factors that can bring me pleasure in any given situation. I enjoy an activity because of what I’m doing, or because of the people I’m with. Sometimes it’s because the atmosphere is unique, and other times happiness is my friend that day, and nothing can damage my mood. Most often I find enjoyment in situations because the food is great. On my trip to Prague, for example, all of these were in perfect synchrony: walking through the romantic, beautiful old town, arm in arm with my beloved, lounging at Cafe Savoy over chicken soup with liver dumplings.
My perfect book-reading time is in the morning, over breakfast. I’ve had this habit ever since I was a child. My mother and I would meet early on Saturday before any other members of the family got up, and we would sit quietly together, each perusing her own book. I loved that. I read at other times throughout the day, of course, but my preferred time, my most treasured time, is still early in the morning.
For the last few mornings, my companion in this ritual was Victoria Schwab’s The Near Witch. I downloaded this book to my kindle a few months ago, and though it came highly recommended on so many blogs, I found it hard to begin to read. I know that I’m not supposed to judge a book by it’s cover, but I just didn’t like the cover of this one. The girl walking through shrouds motif just didn’t do it for me. But, once I started reading, I couldn’t put the book down (including last night, as I was finishing it, when I snapped at the kids because they wanted to tell me good night).
The Near Witch is rich on atmosphere. From the first page I knew that the wind was going to play an important role in shaping the novel. It weaves its way, menacing and kind, romantic and violent, seductive and dangerous, throughout this beautiful novel. “The wind on the moors is a tricky thing,” Lexi says as she begins to tell her young sister the story of the Near Witch. “It whispers and howls and it sings. It can bend its voice and cast it into any shape, long and thin enough to slide beneath the door, stout enough to seem a thing of weight and breath and bone.”
There is so much in this novel: a gentle, sweet falling in love, a search for missing children, a dead witch, her bones interlaced with the soil, stones and sticks of the moor. But more than anything, there is the wind, blowing through the novel, braiding it together, making the characters, scenery, and the world of the novel come alive. It caresses the hills and blows through the grass like the waves of the ocean. It creates a mythical, mystical atmosphere that drew me in, enchanted and awed, till the last word finally released me to go and kiss the children good night.