The Posy Ring by Catherine Czerkawska is a beautifully crafted novel that immerses the reader in the lives and loves of people whose stories are played out in the same place, but over four centuries apart. It shifts easily between time periods and two separate but interconnected stories and creates a sense of expectation and hope for not one, but two happy endings. The story unfolds around an ancient house on the Hebridean island of Garve, recently acquired by Daisy Graham, who has inherited if from a grandmother she never met. She is daunted by its size and isolation, but fascinated to learn its history. Aided by local resident Cal Galbraith, a man she finds herself drawn to, despite being wary of his motives, Daisy tries to make sense of her legacy.
Running in parallel is the story of Mateo and Francisco, survivors from the ill-fated Spanish Armada, who secure safe passage to Garve from Ireland. Here they find a safe haven and a welcome not afforded to them elsewhere on their arduous journey. They are taken in by the local laird, brought back to health and strength, and over the passage of time one of them falls in love with the laird's daughter. The Spaniard gifts her a gold posy ring that he has carried with him throughout his long journey and kept secreted on his person, so as not to be lost or taken from him. It is a very old piece and has French mottoes engraved upon it: un temps viendra and vous et nul autre. Will theirs be a story of forbidden love, or will it blossom in this unlikely place?
Catherine Czerkawska deftly weaves the strands of her novel, painting a rich pen picture of Garve to both modern eyes and to those for whom it was an alien place, in what was, for us, a distant time. Her writing is colourful, providing clear images, for this reader at least, of the house in two very different stages of its life. The island and its surroundings gain a scale that differs whether you are reading about its 21st century incarnation or its 16th. The characters we meet see the world in very different ways, though their views of it turn out to be surprisingly similar. We are all constrained, whatever the size of our world. Can Daisy and Cal find their way and place in the world; did Mateo and Francisco find theirs? We're not ones for spoilers, so go and read this excellent book for yourself and find out.