Raven Winter

Raven Winter
Susanna Bailey

Having enjoyed both Snow Foal and Otter’s Moon I was anticipating another treat with Raven Winter and was not disappointed. Susanna’s lyrical prose sweeps you away from the start but with themes of domestic abuse, coercive control, hurt, and loneliness this is anything but a comfortable read despite the sensitivity with which difficult issues are presented.

The story is told from the viewpoint of Billie whose father is in prison and whose mother has allowed her new man, Daniel, to move into their flat making life a misery not only for the girl but also her Mam.
Eventually Billie decides that her life has become unbearable (Dad’s letters have stopped coming months back, but she doesn’t believe he’s stopped loving her) and she decides to run away. But then she finds a badly injured raven in the woods where she goes to feel closer to her Dad. She takes the bird home to care for it endangering herself and forcing her to defer her plans but in so doing she finds hope. Hope in the form of letters which her mum must have kept from her, with an address that she’s never before seen. This increases her determination to find her Dad, but now she’s even more conflicted inside.

Meanwhile Bille has met Nell, also something of a loner, who lives nearby with her Nan. At first Billie brushes aside her approaches but little by little a bond develops between the two girls.

There are many strands to this powerful story and binding them together is a celebration of nature and its power to heal: what the author has achieved is a fine balance between sadness and beauty. Not everything is resolved but father and daughter are reunited and there’s hope for the future. There’s also a reassuring message to any reader in a situation similar to Billie about the importance of going to a trusted adult for help.

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