Mists and Megaliths by Catherine McCarthy
Updated: Jan 7
Catherine McCarthy’s passion for her homeland, Wales, forms the core of all of the stories in this collection of shorts. It’s a theme you can really be immersed in, there’s so much love injected into the descriptive easy-going narrative style of McCarthy’s prose, you can feel the rugged coastlines, the ancestral homes, the mountain lakes, and remote fishing villages. They say you should write what you know -Catherine leaves us in no doubt that Wales is where her heart is, and that she is its daughter, with every cell of her being.
I had read a couple of shorts from Mrs. McCarthy, prior to starting this collection, so I was expecting breathtaking description, chillingly gothic atmospheres, well-constructed shorts, inner monologue, thought process, and sensory writing as the base of all of the stories. And it’s true to say that Catherine stayed true to form. The range of presentation though – now that came as a welcome surprise. Catherine’s storytelling is as diverse as it is inspirational.
Highlights for me were the wonderful Coblynau, Lure, and Cragen, but there’s very little in here that didn’t read poetically. Spending time in Catherine’s finely constructed worlds is “precious time”, time deservingly spent. I was frustrated by my increasingly busy week, and the time I had to spend away from her book, though that increased the anticipation, of course.
Coblynau was – well – it hit close to home. The mining underlying theme, and how Catherine illustrated it, was fantastic, building layer upon layer of reality into her story, but the perspective of the old man – just heartbreaking. This is all about story, and yes, I related it to my own experiences with my mother. Of course. That I could, that I would want to make that comparative connection, that speaks of how well she wrote it.
Cragen used foreshadowing and tragedy – we know before we embark that the story does not end well, and that mounting sense of inevitability plays a massive part in making the atmosphere as wet, drizzly, sickening, and doom-laden as it is. It’s fantastic, and a great opener, you know right from the get-go that you are in the hands of a professional. Kudos, Mrs. McCarthy.
One thing I wanted to mention, as have other reviewers, are the Author’s notes between the stories, by means of introduction. I thought they worked well – I’ve seen authors' notes before that did the opposite – here, they are well placed and add resonance to the atmosphere of the writing – again, a focus on McCarthy’s own experiences adds legitimacy to the shorts and contributes to the atmosphere she creates.
McCarthy’s narrative is bewitching, mesmeric in its smooth presentation and build-up, there’s nothing to find fault with here, it is as flawless in its presentation as one gets. Reviewing it becomes an exercise in realization – McCarthy is at the top of her game, a voice so distinct that I feel awkward in voicing any opinion because opinions infer judgment, and how does one judge an Author that does what she does so well - comparisons do her no justice. I don’t feel authoritative enough to be able to do so, and certainly not in the field that Catherine calls her own, atmospheric descriptive emotional horror.
We can just hope that her writing doesn’t stop. It was enchanting, Catherine.
Now let’s see about Immortelle.
Five out of five ⭐’s
You can buy Mists and Megaliths by clicking on the Amazon store appropriate to you.
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