The Hollow Girl is the fifth ARC I’ve read for ARC August and I picked it up largely because of the hype I’ve seen about it on twitter. I’ve been wanting to try out more books with fantasy elements and this one’s description as part Roma-magic-tale part retribution-against-rapists caught my eye. I ended up starting it at about 9pm and finishing it by 11 the next morning I was so thoroughly hooked.
Set in Wales, the story is inspired by the author’s grandmother and her own Romany background. Young Bethan is apprentice to her witch grandmother and strikes up a tentative friendship with a diddicoy (part Roma) boy while selling at the local market. After a brutal assault (TW for rape that happens ‘off camera’- the author warns for this in her introduction) Bethan’s new friend is left for dead and she and her grandmother try and save him with magic, while simultaneously wreaking revenge on the boys who assaulted her.
It’s a pretty brutal story and probably not for the faint hearted; the boys all get their comeuppance in some violent way of another, but also Bethan’s feelings after the attack are understandably confused and harrowing. It’s no holds barred, but the idea of rapists getting their just desserts is one that I haven’t seen much of in fiction and wouldn’t mind seeing more of.
I loved the magical elements of this story; I’m finding that fantasy anchored in specific cultures is much more my kind of thing than ‘high fantasy’ and The Hollow Girl has a rich cultural backing to give it a sense of realism. It’s also written with the historical setting in mind- although the time period is ambiguous (unless I missed it!) the narration feels natural and not forced. It’s hard to read because of the subject nature, the writing itself is wonderful.
The Hollow Girl is out on 10th October!