The Summer Witch by Louise Cooper
Louise Cooper had this uncanny ability to really delve into what it must be like to be insane. It’s like a study of Medieval madness. It leaves me spellbound.
No other author I’ve read can make the most boring or innocuous of scenes (like a stuffy Council meeting) seem riveting and interesting.
The Summer Witch is a beautiful piece of work because everything starts off harmlessly enough, and then Carys (the protagonist) gets in over her head and everything falls completely apart.
But it’s like a frog in hot water – he’ll jump right out if it’s boiling, but slowly heat it and you can easily cook him. That’s what the story is like. Things happen almost innocently, and harmlessly, but they all build up into a dramatic crescendo of madness and magic.
Carys’ greedy father sells her to an old widower, and although she’s a virgin she doesn’t want to stay that way. While her new husband never makes a move on her, she develops a game of make-believe with a scarecrow in a field. She is then granted magical help by mysterious gypsy-folk, and her imaginary lover becomes real. She also gains some magic power of her own, as her new love Robin teaches her the ways of the wild and magic.
Eventually, Carys gets too far over her head, and she’s unable to cope with everything. And also, Robin is awesome. I can’t say more or I might spoil it.
I first read The Summer Witch when I was a teenager, and I’ve been looking for my own version for years. I finally got my hands on one in 2010, but unfortunately, Louise Cooper died of a brain aneurysm in 2009.
Her death is a great loss, because she is my absolute favourite author in the whole world, and she’s not really very well known. She weaves a story perfectly, and The Summer Witch is my favourite of her stand-alone novels.