🌠 Happy Paperback Publication Day 🌠
21 February 2019
My thanks to the publishers and Ana for my copy of this book
Brittle but not yet broken, Ia Pendilly ekes out a fierce life in a caravan on the coast of Cornwall. In years of living with Bran - her embattled, battering cousin and common law husband - she's never yet had her own baby. So when she discovers the waif washed up on the shore, Ia takes the risk and rescues her. And the girl, in turn, will rescue something in Ia - bringing back a memory she's lost, giving her the strength to escape, and leading her on a journey downriver.
It will take her into the fringes of a society she's shunned, collapsed around its own isolation. It will take her through a valley ravaged by floods, into a world not too far from reckoning. It will take her in search of her sister, and the dark remembrance of their parting. It will take her, break her, remake her, in the shapes of freedom.
Ia Pengilly lives a solitary life on the Cornish coast, eking out a desolate existence, relying on her considerable wits and her innate ability to salvage the gifts the seas throw up. Her joyless relationship with her much older cousin, Bran, who uses and abuses her, and simply doesn't care enough to love her, is as bleak as her existence.
Set in some futuristic world where neither hope nor charity is allowed to flourish, gangs roam and pilfer, and when the light is on in Ia's isolated caravan, men, with their own specific needs, come a-calling.
There is a cold, cheerlessness to the story which I found utterly compelling and the barren nature of Ia's life is offset against the poetic quality of the words which rumble and turn at every opportunity. I loved the unique way that the prose skittered and danced, and was so in tune with the nature of its surroundings that it became totally immersive. I knew I was impressed when I read the opening paragraph three times, and so mesmerising is the narrative that even further into the novel I had to keep turning back to re-read a word, or a cleverly constructed sentence.
All Rivers Run Free is a story about self-discovery and self-worth, and of how lives are shaped and moulded by those we love, who are carried close to our hearts. It's also about a ferocious need to survive in a world where the dark shades of grief and loss are allowed to colour everything.
Natasha Carthew is a startling new voice from beyond the limits of common urban experience. She tells a tale of marginalisation and motherhood in prose that crashes like waves on rocks; rough, breathless and beautiful. Natasha has been published previously as a poet and young adult writer and her books have been nominated for the Carnegie Award and shortlisted for several national awards including the Branford Boase. She lives in Cornwall with her girlfriend of twenty years and spends most of her time writing outdoors in all weathers. Her identity as a country writer has led her to become a survival expert, a trained walking-guide and to teach Wild Writing workshops. Natasha is the driving force behind a proposed Working Class Literary Festival planned for 2020.
A note from the author..
When I began writing All Rivers Run Free I wanted to tell a story that dealt with the issue of mental illness, while exploring the nature/nurture question of why we behave in a certain way. With Ia I wanted to create a character that we could root for from the very start, a woman who despite living in a lonely, abusive relationship and a lifetime of adversity, finds pleasure in small things and never gives up hope. The world she creates to protect herself was central to the story: she has a love of nature, collecting found objects and keeps looking beyond the cove for something life-changing. This is a woman who has lost family in the past and through her unborn babies has lost her future family. She sees no way out so she creates an alternative reality. Despite the heartache, I wanted All Rivers Run Free to be an uplifting story that followed Ia on an emotional journey, a transformation from innocence into horror and horror into tenderness. It was vital that this story said something important about the human condition, a presentation of suffering and cruelty played out against a beautiful, harsh backdrop of a recently collapsed Cornwall. I was born and raised in a council house on the south coast of Cornwall and have always taken inspiration from my homeland. I left school at fifteen with barely any qualifications and instead of higher education I embarked on a journey of low paid jobs while I worked on my writing career. From an early age I wrote poetry and had early successes in top UK and US magazines which led to three books, the third being published with Onlywomen Press. I consider myself a Country writer; rural issues, the environment and nature are always at the forefront of my work and I like to tell stories in a traditional, timeless way. I live in a cottage in the Cornish countryside with my girlfriend and when I am not writing in my outdoor cabin, I can be found climbing cliff-tops and getting lost on the moors of Cornwall.
Twitter @NatashaCarthew #AllRiversRunFree