Sometimes you feel a connection with another person you’ve never met. I first felt empathy with Caro Giles after reading her honest and beautiful posts on social media. So when I first held her debut book, Twelve Moons: A Year Under a Shared Sky, my expectations weighed heavy with promise. But would it meet my high hopes?

Twelve Moons is a memoir telling the story of a tumultuous year of challenge, mothering and recovering. Giles received recognition in 2021 as the winner of BBC Countryfile magazine’s New Nature Writer of the Year competition. Her sensuous account of wild swimming near her home in Poddler Pool, Northumberland, is a foretaste of the book, and I urge you to find it online.

Giles’s four young daughters, known as The Mermaid, The Whirlwind, The Caulbearer and The Littlest One, are the very heart of Twelve Moons. Giles is first and foremost a mother, but this book is about rediscovering the whole woman. The pages are alive with a Nature-fuelled, feminine and at times highly charged sexual power: “The smashing of the sea against my thighs currently replaces urgent hands and perhaps for now that feels safer.”

Like additional characters, the moon and the sea are always present. Their language permeates. Of her children, Giles writes: “They may wax and wane, shift under other people’s gazes, but they are constant.” The writing is honest, raw and powerful, throbbing with an energy that can’t be contained. “Sometimes I become a sea witch, weaving spells in the waves, screeching and spinning in the surf. Witches are girls who rebel and dare to be different, women who refuse to conform, who challenge with their eyes.”

Yet woven through the wildness and vibrancy is a thread of comforting domesticity – cooking dinner, sorting laundry, hanging out the swimming costumes. As with daily life, there is a repetition through the book: the cat is let out many times, the sea is swum in through the seasons. Just like the waves on the shore or the cycle of the moon, this is the gentle pulse of real life. This is the work of motherhood. This is the rhythm of Nature.

It heightens the reader to the beautifully observed differences – to the wolf moon becoming the snow moon, to the gradual strengthening of a child, to the geese flying overhead. We become embedded in the very essence of life in this family. Giles understands this, bringing meaning to the mundane that we must all experience: “There is something about the repetition of domestic life that lends itself to the observation of patterns … Tiny repetitive acts, running in circles around my back lane, walking up and down stairs with baskets of laundry, pulling warm pyjamas over growing bodies, are these the bricks that build a life?”

The role of writing alongside caring is also powerfully depicted, showing us the predawn candlelit magic of conjuring words to connect to the future reader.

Single motherhood is challenging enough, but Giles navigates with gentle care the needs of her daughters, particularly The Mermaid, who doesn’t fit neatly into the box designed for her by society. The raw fear and animal love of motherhood are beautifully portrayed, and particularly for anyone who has loved a child who is in pain, it is deeply moving: “Her neurodiversity is not an illness, although society can make it feel otherwise. Her empathy and curious mind make the world a better place.”

I close the final page and the book still weighs heavy. Not now with expectation, but with the solid beauty, pain and piercing honesty of holding another human’s heart in my hands.

Twelve Moons: A Year Under a Shared Sky by Caro Giles. Harper North, 2023. ISBN: 9780008543235.

Kate Blincoe is a Nature lover, writer and mother.