This may be a writer's book. I can't tell if others will appreciate the mastery of technique required to tell this story in the way that it is told. I know that I appreciate it, greatly.
This is a story about a family. Its centered on one of the adults of that family, Taveth; whose gift and calling, or "lifelode" is to keep house. Taveth lives in a world where magic works and she sees through time, she may look at someone and see their older self or their younger self, she may look at a flower and see the fruit, she may look out a window in summer and see snow falling.
Because the story centers on Taveth, and because Taveth sees through time and keeps house, the story is not told in strict sequential order. It comes in circles and cycles, like the cycling of seasons in the kitchen garden and the putting up and using up of preserves and the time coming around again to shear the sheep to wash the wool to spin the blankets for the children who grow up to bring children into the family to sit in the same red chair and bang the same spoon that their father did, on a new blue bowl to replace the one that was broken...
This is not an easy way to write a story, but Walton makes it work, and work beautifully. I'm kind of gobsmacked at how she pulls off this high wire act - writing a story out of sequential order and having it still make sense. But more than I admire the technical prowess I admire the perfect match between style and subject. Because housekeeping is cycles and it is timeless. That style subject match is something I am learning to expect from Walton and every time its a different but terrific match up.
I love Taveth, and I love that Walton has the guts to take on the story of a happily married middle aged woman who keeps house and find a way to make it resonant and funny and intellectually challenging, without turning Taveth into someone else. Taveth doesn't suddenly become a warrior or get captured and oppressed, or learn that she's actually the heir to a fortune or reveal a secret ambition to become a ballerina. There is tragedy and there is triumph and loss and struggle and Taveth participates in all of it as she also goes on doing what Taveth does, keeping the household ticking over, making sure everyone has food to eat and clothes to wear and isn't catching a cold or forgetting to talk to their little brother on his birthday.
In the preface to this novel Sharyn November comments that it is a feminist novel in the best sense of the word. I agree. It genuinely values Taveth and her lifelode and takes them seriously but doesn't suggest that everyone else has to be Taveth to be fulfilled. Its a wonderful book.