Today is the feast day of Hild of Whitby, aka St Hilda, who died 1408 years ago. It seems like a good time to announce that Menewood, the sequel to Hild, has finally entered copyediting—it’s in the production cycle. It will be published by FSG/MCD in October 2023.
I’ve seen a draft of the cover—it’s fantastic!—and here’s a first stab at the flap copy:
In the much anticipated sequel to Hild, Nicola Griffith’s Menewood transports readers back to seventh-century Britain, a land of rival kings and religions poised for epochal change. Hild is no longer the bright child who made a place in Edwin Overking’s court with her seemingly supernatural insight. She is eighteen, honed and tested, the formidable Lady of Elmet, now building her personal stronghold in the valley of Menewood.
But Edwin recalls his most trusted advisor. Old alliances are fraying. Younger rivals are snapping at his heels. War is brewing—bitter war, winter war. Not knowing who to trust he becomes volatile and unpredictable. Hild begins to understand the true extent of the chaos ahead, and now she must navigate the turbulence and fight to protect both the kingdom and her own people.
She will face the losses and devastation of total war, and then must find a new strength, the implacable determination to forge a radically different path for herself and her people. In the valley, her last redoubt, her community slowly takes root. She trains herself and her unexpected allies in new ways of thinking, and she prepares for one last wager: risking all on a single throw for a better future…
The copy will change, it always does, but I think it gives a sense of the sweep of the book: Menewood is epic. It begins four months after the end of Hild, and covers only four years of Hild’s life, but those years are intense: war and defeat, alliance and betrayal, birth and death, joy and forgiveness, violence and rage, love and lust, war and victory, grief and loss, learning and building, bravery and cowardice, growth and change, war and devastation, power and responsibility, and the making, breaking, and shaping of kings.
Menewood is also full of quieter moments: peace, pleasure, contentment, understanding, acceptance, forgiveness, sorrow, laughter, warmth, friendship, and farewells. It is a book about life: how it feels, what it means, how it changes.
Menewood the book is big—30% longer than Hild. I have a lot to say about it—I could post three times a week from now until October and still not run out of things to talk about—but for now I want to touch briefly on Menewood the place.
The Old English pronunciation of Menewood would be something like MEN-eh-wood. But I pronounce it MEEN-wood because I have based it on a real place: Meanwood, in Leeds, Yorkshire. The fictional stream running through Menewood is the real Meanwood Beck; the fictional valley of Menewood is the real Meanwood Valley. You can go there today, walk under the trees alongside the beck in Hild’s footsteps and imagine her running, laughing, weeping, and deciding the fate of kings.
According to Wikipedia, the name derives from Meene wude — a boundary wood. But I can’t find meene in any Old English glossaries, and mene seems to mean necklace, so, well, your guess is as a good as mine.
I grew up in Headingley, a part northwest Leeds that borders Meanwood, and as a child and teenager ran wild in Meanwood Park, which at about 70 acres covers only a tiny part of the valley. For me, as for Hild, Meanwood is the heart of Elmet, the heart of home. I have a deep and abiding affection for the sound and scent of its trees and air and water. When I go back to the UK I always visit the park, and as soon as I’m under the trees the scent of the soil is a stab under my ribs; it’s part of me.
Here’s a photo of Meanwood Beck I took years ago with Crapcam.
In Hild’s time it would have been bigger and burlier. If you look at a map of Meanwood Valley you’ll see the shape the beck (from a Norse word for brook) carved from the hills on its way to the river Aire.
Above all, Menewood is about Hild. She is on every page, the burning heart around which events turn. And just as in the first book, Hild is most at home in nature, so the book is full of water, sky, and high wild places. I can’t wait for you to read it.
2 thoughts on “Hild, Menewood, and Meanwood”
This post makes me so so happy. I love Hild so much…I read it a couple of years ago and it was my top pandemic read and I read it again a year later (I never re-read books so quickly) and loved it just as much. Hild in the natural world is my favorite bit about the first book, and the Menewood my favorite place, so I really can’t wait. October feels forever away, but I’m so happy it’s coming!
I’m falling in love with Hild as I read about her, the way she reads patterns and people. I’m enjoying her mother as well, whom seems a worthy ancestor to many of the wily ladies I’ve read about in latter English history. :) Gorgeous intro to the next book! I’m delighted we’re going to see more of Hild along with more of her world through her eyes.
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