Monday, September 29, 2014

The Rocking Horse Garden by Maggie Silwood

   The kelpie was only a creature of legend, but one to be feared if ever seen.  Back in the days when herring fishing was a way of life for those living on the coast of Scotland, seeing or hearing a kelpie was a bad omen.  It brought death and destruction with it.
   Jessie was one of the "Herring Lassies" that would follow the men around the coast.  She helped gut and pack the fish with two other ladies.  There were three of them per team.  This provided revenue for the young women in a time when women didn't have the rights that men did.  This was a sort of freedom for them until they were married when they were expected to take care of the home and children.  It was Jessie that first thought she saw the kelpie but brushed it off as imagination.  Around that time a new family had moved into the area.  New people were a big thing in such small towns and villages.  The man had bought the boat yard and had a young son.  Jessie's cousin, Mary, was a young girl in need of work to help her family.  So she goes to live with this new family as the hired help.  All seems quiet for a bit but Mary starts hearing the kelpie too and confides this to Jessie, who never tells her that she had as well.  Mary wasn't of a very strong constitution and the phantom kelpie was wearing on her even more than Jessie.  Then disaster strikes.  One night while out on their boat, Jessie's father and two brothers die.  Pieces of their boat wash ashore and Robbie, Jessie's boyfriend, takes some of the pieces home and tries to make a replica of the ship out of it as a type of memorial to the men.  Instead, it takes on the shape of a horse.  Intrigued, the new owner to the boat yard where Robbie works, asks him to make it into a rocking horse for his son.  Once it's done though, things start happening at the man's home.  Mary wakes up on Christmas morning to a strange racket in the kitchen.  Someone had ransacked her employer's home.  It was a huge mess!  Once she saw the rocking horse, she knew it was the feared kelpie and that it was to blame for the ruckus.
   It seems that everything starts to go wrong in the small little town that Jessie and Mary lived in.  They both kept hearing the feared kelpie, causing them to lose sleep and health.  Poor Mary was affected the worst since the rocking horse was in the same house as she was.  And her employer's son, Jamie, had a bad fall off of it one day.  He had to be transported to another town where they could do surgery.  He had fractured his skull.  Mary was once again sure that the rocking horse was to blame.  All the while, Jessie was dealing with the knowledge that she was pregnant with Robbie's baby.  The two of them got married and were now living with Jessie's family until they had their own house.  Then there was a fire and Mary was killed in it.  She was trapped and they couldn't get to her in time.  With all of the bad that had happened to them, Jessie decided that Robbie's idea of leaving one day to another land should happen soon.  They made plans to board a ship to Australia, trying to run away from the kelpie that kept haunting their dreams and their lives.  But the voyage could prove to be more than they could bear.

   This book kind of creeped me out some.  The thought that a kelpie had caused so much destruction was bad enough, but when it became trapped in the rocking horse, that was the creepiest part of the story.  I am one of those people that are scared of things like porcelain dolls to begin with.  So this was way up there on the creep factor for me personally.  And if you have those types of fears, it probably will be for you too.  At the same time, it was interesting to read about such a superstition as this one.  A long time ago there were those that were very superstitious, especially those that worked aboard ships on the seas.  They are tempestuous and you never know when the weather will change so superstition came into play.  In this book though, it sure seemed that the kelpie was at work.  But bad things happen.  Everyone experiences them at some point.  This was just an insane amount all at one time.  It is a true test of willpower and character to weather such circumstances.  However, with Jessie, Robbie, and Mary the events kept wearing at their minds, causing them to create the illusion that the mythical kelpie was following Jessie and Robbie even while they were running away from it.
   The last little bit of the book is about a descendant of Jessie and Robbie's that comes to own a piece of land that had at one time been the couple's.  This young lady named Shona finds Jessie's old diary she wrote on her voyage to Australia.  Intrigued, Shona takes a trip back to Scotland to find her roots.  It is a nice little addition to the story, but not completely necessary.  I would have actually liked to see this be made into its own little book instead of an ending to this one.  I think it would have been better suited for it.
All in all a good read and 4 out of 5 stars!

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