The Wilding is set in England in 1672, just after the end of the Civil War. Our narrator is Jonathan Dymond, a young man who works as a cider-maker. Jonathan lives with his loving parents and leads a quiet, happy life, travelling around the neighbouring villages with his mobile cider-press. But when Jonathan’s father receives a mysterious letter from his dying brother, Jonathan grows suspicious and decides to visit his uncle’s widow to investigate. At his Aunt Harriet’s house he meets Tamar, one of his aunt’s servants, and begins to unravel the circumstances surrounding his uncle’s death.
Due to the fast pace and the plot twists, I would recommend reading this book in as few sittings as possible. I had started off reading it in small portions alongside another book and found it difficult to get into the story; when I decided to put my other book to one side for a while and concentrate solely on this one, I found that I flew through the rest of the novel. The story was entertaining, very compelling and kept me turning the pages.
McCann evokes the period very well. I liked the way she portrayed a small rural community in 17th century England. I also learned more than I could ever wish to know about cider-making and apples…
What does Solomon say? ‘Comfort me with apples.’ Everything about them is kind and comforting: the mild eating apple, the sharp or bitter fruit that crushes to a miraculous sweetness, the homely apples, like tried and trusted friends, that serve all purposes.
But to me, the difference between a good book and a great book is having strong characters that I can connect with – and unfortunately I felt that most of the characters in The Wilding had very little depth. As the narrator, Jonathan was boring and not very engaging. Tamar and her mother were both interesting, well-drawn characters, but as we only saw them through Jonathan’s eyes, I didn’t get to know them as well as I would have liked to. It would have been nice to have had part of the story told from Tamar’s perspective, because Jonathan was just too weak and I felt no emotional involvement with him at all.
So, I thought The Wilding was a good book but not a great one. I would recommend it to people who like well-written, fast moving historical fiction with plenty of twists and revelations.