Liz Hand’s Wylding Hall is fucking brilliant. And it’s simply the best audiobook I’ve listened to, bar none, as her text is perfectly matched to what amounts to a full cast production in a way that’s rarely done.
It is an oral history of an English folk band that never was. It apparently it’s about an incident that Windhollow Faire, the band in this novella, is dealing with, the ramifications of a haunting that happened when they rented a manor house in the country to work on an album — far from the maddening crowds that adore them.
Set in England in that burst of folk-rock that started in the late Sixties with Windhollow Faire being very similar to Fairport Convention, Pentangle and Steeleye. The stay at Wylding Hall is an attempt to deal with the loss of a band member who apparently accidentally fell out the window at the flat she shared with another band member. That she was the the their vocalist and a damn a good one plays into the story here.
The story unfolds in the narratives of the band members (Lesley, Ashton, Jonno, Will), their manager, and also several others about their time spent at Wylding Hall.
Windhollow Faire is fascinating. I could figure out one major influence for Hand’s fictional band, but not the other, so I asked her which musicians and bands were roots of Windhollow Faire and she said ‘Inspired by Fairport and Nick Drake, for the most part. Richard Thompson read it, and mentioned it on Facebook — he said it captured Liege & Lief and also Nick Drake. I was over the moon about that!‘ Windhollow Faire definitely feels real from what I’ve read and listened to from the period. To say more about what happens here would be unfair to you and to to author so I won’t.
Keep in mind that I experienced this tale as an oral narrative with a full cast production, which greatly enhanced the feeling that something bad was happening. What happens apparently ties into a local folk legend involving the wren, a small bird that was hunted most cruelly but no more — or so it is said. All of this makes for a somewhat creepy listen, perfect, I’d say, for an Autumn evening!