A domestic, pastoral fantasy, this novel is set in the village of Applekirk whose inhabitants live out their lives in accordance with their traditions and with the seasons. However, ordinary lives for these villagers involve such things as nuclear families comprised of four adults and their assorted children, the practice of "yeya" - a form of magic - and a commitment to honouring their "lifelode", that is, their skill, their passion, their role in life.
Into the village come two people, Rankin, a scholar from the rationalist and scientific Western part of the world in which Applekirk exists and Hanethe, former lord of Applekirk, who left to go to the spiritual Eastern region and who returns because she has displeased a god. The presence of Rankin and Hanethe sets off a chain of events which leads to the climax of the novel.
Time is the most important element of the narrative. Taveth, a central character in the novel, is able to see people at different stages of their lives at once - as they are, as the child or the teenager they once were and as the elderly person they will become. Past, present and future happen simultaneously. In addition, Applekirk exists on a continuum where space and time expand as one travels from East to West. Days or weeks of time in the East may be decades in Applekirk and centuries in the West. The sense that time is not fixed and that what happens in life can happen all at once pervades the work.
The novel is not just about time, though. Amongst other things, it's about religion, politics, sexual mores and family life. Applekirk's conventions, practices and beliefs raise questions about our own conventions, practices and beliefs, which I guess is part of the role of good literature.
It took a couple of chapters for me to begin to understand the world of Applekirk and the web of relationships which exists between the main characters. I particularly like that Walton doesn't spoonfeed her readers. She makes them work to become immersed in the world she creates. I also love Walton's beautiful prose, her inventiveness, her humour, her playfulness, her ability to create memoreable characters and her willingness to write a fantasy which celebrates the ordinary things in life.
Thank you to my friend BunWat, for introducing me to Jo Walton by suggesting that I might like to read [b:Farthing|183740|Farthing (Small Change, #1)|Jo Walton|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1315596391s/183740.jpg|1884104] and also for entrusting her signed copy of this novel to the vagaries of the international postal system. The book will head home having won another fan.