The Coffin Path by Katherine Clements featuring Birds by Anouk

My new-found passion for Gothic fiction continues apace.  I’ve just finished The Coffin Path by Katherine Clements, set in the mid-17th century, a time when your average local yokel firmly believed in witches and wizardry, alongside an equally firm belief that spouting the Lord’s Prayer, whilst falling to your knees at every opportunity, would save you from the dark side.  It frequently didn’t.

The Coffin Path is Wuthering Heights, if victorian sensibilities had allowed Emily Bronte to go all x-rated when it came to Heathcliff and Cathy getting it on in the heather.  Ms Clements is under no such restraints – MAJOR SPOILER here (bit redundant on the blog that no one reads) – Ms Clements makes real the oft referred to ‘incestuous’ relationship between H and C in Wuthering Heights.  I’ll say no more. Suffice it to say this book beats Ms Bronte hands down, in terms of torrid, forbidden passion and umpteen pages worth of detailed descriptions of the Yorkshire moors.  I mean what could be better than a book that features its heroine continually gadding about my favourite bit of this sceptred isle?

It’s also a farmer’s delight.  Should you be a farmer and generally not given to literary endeavours, then I suggest giving The Coffin Path a go. For there you will find the most detailed 17th century descriptions of sheep farming (including revolting descriptions of sheep in labour) that you’re ever likely to find outside of a boring farming textbook.  Ms Clements spent a weekend on a farm helping out at lambing time, just so she could write about it in all its blood splattered glory (there’s a lot of blood splattering in The Coffin Path.)

And what an AWFUL time to be alive the 17th century was, as you anxiously stumbled about your freezing cold hovel, clutching your paltry little beeswax candle, continually mumbling bits from the Bible to protect you from ye olde demons, whilst sticking bunches of herbs up over door lintels to ward of the witches.  Actually, the more I think about it, it kind of summarises my own anxiety-ridden life.

I recorded another song for my singing teacher, after a few weeks of not doing so due to a curious lassitude about the whole thing. Also, the husband’s audio lead that allows me to transfer backing tracks to Audacity no longer works. The gothic stuff must have really got to me for Birds by Anouk, the 2013 Eurovision entry by the Netherlands, suddenly popped into my head from nowhere.  Now, you may wonder how on earth a Eurovision entry entitled Birds could possibly relate to Gothic fiction. Well, apart from the fact that birds feature heavily in said fiction, generally in the form of the rook or the raven, Birds may as well also be the theme song for your average lonely and tortured Gothic heroine, all maudlin, unintelligible lyrics as it is, not to mention the equally maudlin, depressing tune.  But I liked it back in 2013 and thought it should have won. 

The track is just my voice, due to the broken audio lead situation.  I imagined I was a character in The Coffin Path – not 60 years old you understand, but young and ‘interesting,’ in a nice 17th century frock. There was I, singing in the oak clad, candle lit, echoing hall of the medieval country house belonging to Mercy Booth as she, her dementia ridden father, her aged nurse/housekeeper and her darkly handsome, but strangely brooding farm hand sat around a log fire all rapt with attention (especially the farm hand) the ghosts scampering all around us.

In presenting this song to my teacher, along with the imaginary setting in which I sang it, one would not have blamed her should she have wondered if her student had lost some of her singing marbles. My teacher didn’t miss a beat though, such is her professionalism.

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