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Catriona Ward was born in Washington DC and grew up in the US, Kenya, Madagascar, Yemen and Morocco. She now lives in London where she works as a writer and researcher for Bianca Jagger's human rights foundation. Rawblood is her first novel.
Eve and Dinah are everything to one another, never parted day or night. They are raised among the Children, a community of strays and orphans ruled by a mysterious figure they call Uncle. All they know is the grey Isle of Altnaharra which sits in the black sea off the wildest coast of Scotland. Eve loves the free, savage life of the Isle and longs to inherit Uncle's power. She is untroubled save by her dreams; of soft arms and a woman singing. Dinah longs for something other. But the world is at war and cannot be kept at bay. As the solitude of Altnaharra is broken, Eve's faith and sanity fracture. In a great storm, in the depths of winter, as the old year dies, the locals discover a devastating scene on the Isle. Eve and Dinah's accounts of that night contradict and intertwine. As past and present converge, only one woman can be telling the truth. Who is guilty, who innocent?
Highly Recommended. Catriona Ward’s assured and artful first novel is a wonderfully gothic tale. Set in an Edwardian Devon haunted by the Great War it has its roots in some dark Victorian family secrets. The story revolves around Iris, last of the Villarca line, who lives in the eponymous Rawblood house. The Villarcas have died young for generation after generation; struck down by a curse that means they must be alone. So when Iris falls for farmer’s son Tom her father forbids her from seeing him. So far so melodramatic but this is no corny dark romance. Ward is an astonishingly adept writer with a wonderfully poetic turn of phrase and she is also in complete control of her characters and the plot. It quickly becomes clear that this is a many layered, complex and subtle novel and Ward has a real gift for sowing her horrors seamlessly into a psychologically real story. The west country setting and the period Ward has chosen add real flavour and while the obvious shadow of Thomas Hardy hangs over this Ward knows what she is doing and makes the book her own. Key to this is her prose style. There are real poetic touches here but they are always robustly rooted in landscape and nature – there’s more than a hint of Ted Hughes’ very physical poetry in her descriptions. If you enjoy Essie Fox or Sarah Perry Rawblood will haunt you. ~ Simon Spanton
Shortlisted for the Best Horror Novel at the British Fantasy Awards 2016. October 2015 Debut of the Month. A ghostly, achingly sad, yet excruciatingly beautiful debut. This is effectively one story, however there are a number of narrators covering a period of 80 years from 1839; at times it feels as though you are being kept at a considerable distance, at others as though you are at their shoulder, seeing, listening, feeling. The stories are not told sequentially, instead time meanders, darts, pulls and pushes, which initially creates a feeling of confusion, yet, yet…Rawblood gradually takes a grip and absorbs you, as a malevolent presence hovers over the pages, waiting. The house of Rawblood set within Dartmoor sits centrally in the storyline, described so vividly it feels as though you can reach out, touch it. As understanding grows, a fear develops for what is to come, for what has already been. To describe Rawblood just as a ghost story feels like an injustice, Catriona Ward has created a moving, original tale of love and destruction, one that is truly enthralling and memorable. ~ Liz Robinson