Thursday, May 6, 2010

Review: The Wilding by Maria McCann

Title: The Wilding
Author: Maria McCann
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Faber and Faber, 2010


1672 - a generation after the Civil War, England is still struggling to return to normal after the bloody conflict. In the village of Spadboro, Jonathan Dymond, a cider maker who lives with his parents, has so far enjoyed a quiet and harmonious life. But the death of his uncle leads Jonathan to secrets which have lain dormant since the war..............

Narrated by Jonathan, who we're informed is past his 21st birthday which in those times would have been considered well into adulthood . I sometimes found the way he was thinking and acting to be that of someone younger and more naive.............or a bit dim! The story is entertaining enough with the secrets slowly being revealed but it's not all that original and very predictable in places.

The real beauty of this book lies in the description of English rural life which the author brings so vividly to life and the star of the show is neither person or plot but the apple tree, its fruit and the cider it produces.

"Certain smells seem as old as Eden: heaps of apples on the turn, smoke coming off sweet wood, the earth opening up in Spring. As long as there have been people, there have been these - so ancient they are, so God-given. I loved the heady stink of fermentation - 'apples and a little rot", as the cottagers said - and the bright brown sweat that dripped from the murc even before the screw was turned, the generous spirit of the apple that made the best cider of all."

By the middle of the 17th century cider had become the drink of choice for the larger population of Britain. Almost every farm had an apple orchard and a press and cider was often given as part of a worker's wages.
"Good cider cures anything".........In 1664 John Evelyn wrote of the healthful benefits of cider " excites and cleanses the Stomach, strengthens Digestion and infallibly frees the Kidneys."

In the Autumn, the months Aug -Dec. the fruit begins to ripen and then allowed to fall before gathering. The various varieties matured at different times and the whole community was involved in bringing in their own and the neighbours crops before they over ripened.

Redstreak, Foxwhelp, Royal Wilding, Meadgate - these wonderful names flow off the tongue and give each an individuality . Like people, each has it's own flavour - sweet, sour, luscious, bitter - that will be present in the cider it produces.

When the apples have been pressed and the cider has been stored in barrels it's time for the big celebration.
Wassailing - the traditional folk custom of wassailing fruit trees - a ceremony intended to begin the process of waking the fruit trees from their winter slumber and the first fertility festival of the folk calendar.

It's all fascinating and why I love historical fiction so much . This is a book that is best appreciated when you can connect the people and storyline with the apples and the process of cider making which it took me a while to do. The cover is beautiful and a perfect illustration for what the story is about.

The Wilding? - A wild or uncultivated plant; especially, a wild apple tree or crab apple; also, the fruit of such a plant............." a bastard tree".

I'm not going to go wild about this book but overall I did enjoy it.

Royal Reviews Historical Fiction Challenge
What's in a Name 3 Challenge ( title with a plant in it)
Typically British Challenge


  1. Not wild over it, but still good. Hm, I do like what I read, it sounds nice. And cider is yummy

  2. Wow .. this book sounds interesting! I haven't heard of it, so let me look this up!

  3. ....and long descriptions of cider is exactly why I DON'T like historical fiction! HAHA! : )

    Now apple cider donuts are a whole other story.

  4. Jenners - not longdescriptions - just enough to interest and set me googling. Never eaten an apple cider donut - sounds yummy! :-)

  5. I recently bought this - thanks for a taste of what it's going to contain!

  6. This really does sound like something I'd enjoy, and I do like learning about how people practiced trades long ago.

  7. I love the cover of this book. The girl is so interesting.... I want to find out where she is going. I'll have to put it on my wish list or try a sample on the kindle (if it is available).

  8. My extended family get together every other year to make apple cider. Each aunt and unle has a "share" in the family cider press. It's alot of work collecting, hauling, washing, cutting out rot, and then letting the press do its thing. Then there's the straining and bottling! So much fun. This sounds like a book I'd like!

  9. Chelle - that sounds wonderful. How nice that the whole process still continues today.