Review: A Necessary Blessing by Sarah Head (2020)

A Necessary Blessing by Sarah Head


A stunning novel of family secrets, ancient magic and healing – perfect for fans of Barbara Erskine and Christina Courtenay.

Ruth Turner has a unique ability. She can walk through time, seeing the village, religious community and inhabitants as they used to be. Abandoned by her philandering husband, she makes new friends amongst village leaders, Greg Iles, the village blacksmith, Granny Compson, a retired farmer’s wife and Lord Peter Brazington, the prickly Earl of Haverliegh, owner of Roelswick Estate.

As Ruth learns more about village history, she uncovers many secrets, which change her life and affect her closest friends, putting her at the centre of ghostly retribution. Can she use her new knowledge to unravel the cause of all the trouble before her community is torn apart again?

A Necessary Blessing is the first book in the Roeslwick Chronicles by Sarah Head. Set deep in the heart of the Cotswolds, it charts the story of a rural village where modern and ancient practice work side by side.

Where past beliefs inform present customs, promoting future action, we understand how water is a necessary blessing to us all.


Many thanks to Charlie Farrow for providing me with a digital copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. I was really intrigued by the sound of this book – I didn’t quite know what to expect, and I was pleasantly surprised by how quirky and original it is.

The world this novel takes place in is very unusual. While it is set in Roeslwick Village in modern times, it is as if the contemporary gradually recedes as the novel progresses: there is a strong sense of moving back in time, as the traditions and superstitions that link the villagers to their past subsume the touches of modernity that open the book. By the end of the novel, it is almost a shock when email or mobiles or Landrovers are mentioned, as I really felt as if I was reading historical fiction by that point. I can’t think of anything else I have read which does this in quite the same way – it is strikingly original.

The large cast of characters are all vividly drawn and their individual personalities come through as the story unfolds. However, there is also a strong sense of the collective, of a community bound together by its history and its rituals. Ruth is an interesting guide to follow as she is seemingly an outsider, but gradually becomes more and more inextricably linked with the village. For me, the supernatural storyline worked well, and I liked that the majority of the characters seemed surprisingly unperturbed by the existence of a spirit world alongside their own – it added to the sense of quirkiness and strangeness!

The novel is fast-paced and very visual – action scenes are dramatically described, and the village itself provides a convincingly constructed stage for this bizarre events to play out on. It occurred to me more than once that it would make a fantastic TV adaptation! The conclusion is satisfying, but with a hint of more to come, and I do think Roelswick would be an interesting place to revisit. The rich folklore and mysterious goings-on are underpinned by solid characters that engage the reader’s sympathy. I very much enjoyed the way this book started out quite conventionally, with a woman escaping a bad marriage, and then quite quickly became something very unconventional indeed! You certainly need to be able to suspend your disbelief to fully enjoy this book, but if you are prepared to go with the flow and let the excitement carry you away, you’re in for a fun ride!

A Necessary Blessing by Sarah Head is published by Heresy Publishing and is available to purchase here.


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