THE EARTH WITCH by Louise Lawrence


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Woman as earth wisdom, life force, goddess, mother, enchantress, ""lady of owls and flowers."" But above all, woman as snare, menacing and deceptively alluring, marking a young man for her prey. Leading off with a heavy load of sinister omens--a black crow, an unearthly hound--Lawrence makes an overplayed gothic horror of the stuff of Welsh mythology and the interpretations one associates with Robert Graves. Bronwen is a filthy middle-aged hag who mysteriously replaces her recently deceased older relative, a reputed witch, in a hilltop hovel in Wales. Despite her rudeness and the disapproval of his friends Jonathan and Kate, whose family Owen and his family work for, 16-year-old Owen finds himself trekking up the hill and helping Bronwen with firewood, gardening, and the like. Soon, he sickens without the food and water she gives him, and won't touch that prepared by his concerned Aunty Glad, who has raised him. For a time Owen associates Bronwen with his absent mother, but finally moves in as her lover (this is clear, but only by inference) when she grows younger-looking as spring and summer progress. Bronwen moves away in the fall and Owen sickens. Then on Halloween he is drawn once more to the hovel for the climactic sacrifice. Bronwen's pet and alternate incarnation, a huge sow, has already begun to gobble him up when Kate arrives, saving Owen for love and killing the pig with a deep, savage, female ferocity that links her with her victim and with Bronwen. Kate's connection with this mysterious vein of female instinct and power has been hinted at before, but this last would-be-awesome scene still does not ring true. However, that could be said of this entire overstressed delivery of rantings and pronouncements. One feels that Lawrence is less inspired by the sex-typed vision she projects than enamoured of the fabled depth and power so many writers try to borrow from these myths.

Pub Date: March 25th, 1981
Publisher: Harper & Row