Book Review: ‘Sunbathing’ by Isobel Beech

I sit here, writing this review with a cup of Italian coffee and biscuit in tow. I do not think I could have a set up any more fitting. Isobel Beech has created a novel that draws you in from the very beginning. ‘Sunbathing’ by Isobel Beech, takes place mostly in Abruzzo, Italy. The setting is described in such an emotionally and physically connecting way that you feel the Italian breeze, smell the freshly cut tomato salad with basil and olive oil, hear the gurgling of fresh coffee on the stove in the morning, and can imagine the footfalls and efforts of love in the vegetable garden below your window.

I need to preface that this novel does surround the topic of suicide, therefore please read this review with caution and/or pop back onto the blog for another book review soon xx

“… ‘Sunbathing’ explores the workings of the self in the wake of devastation and deep regret, and reveals the infinite ways that the everyday offers solace and hope.”. Transcribed from the back cover of ‘Sunbathing’. In summary, this quote covers the essence of this novel completely.

After suffering the great loss of someone close, an Australian woman books a plane ticket to Italy. She is travelling to stay with her best friend, Giulia, and her fiancรฉ Fab, in their old stone village home. Isobel lets your mind wander as to the setting of this home, and I say home because this is the instant feeling the Beech portrays. It is a place of comfort, warmth, support and hope. We know there is a vegetable garden that Giulia tends to and waters from the buckets of water both the women go walking for every few days. We know that Fab is a writer and pops up to say “Ciao” whenever he hears his name being discussed, either inside or outside the home. We know Giulia and our female main character sit and talk over homemade meals deep into the evening, under the big shady tree in the back yard. We know our main character feels responsible for the loss of a significant figure in her life to suicide. We know that this feeling is one that plagues her mentally and emotionally. Her grief is incongruent to the way she believes is ‘expected’ of her – her grief does not follow a pattern.

It is incredibly unique how connected a reader can feel to the main character through the workings of their inner most thoughts and internal dialogue. The main character utilises online platforms to try and refresh her mind, yet only finds herself feeling more self-destructive after seeking it out. The online and in person conversations about suicide and taking ones life, she finds quite flippant. There is a sense of nobody knowing what she is going through, therefore nobody can help fix her and the significant shift to her life. However, the slow pace of life with Giulia and Fab in Abruzzo, learning to understand the language, making friends with a stray cat called Bric and taking care in planting, tending and caring for, then harvesting their own food and appreciating all it does for the human body, becomes her salvation. Day by day, the sun would rise, the coffee would boil and the routines would begin to heal her.

One of my favourite parts of this novel was seeing how the main characters perspective about Bric, the stray cat, changed over time. To begin with, Bric would only visit Giulia and Fab’s home every so often for food. He was more of a neighbourhood cat but this worried our main character. She was terrified that he wouldn’t return, he would become lost and starve. This became comparative to the loss of the significant person in her life. She felt that if she looked for Bric, fed him and cared for him, he would stay with her. Sadly, no matter how much nurturance and love she expressed to Bric, she couldn’t make him stay. Towards the end of the novel, our main character comes to accept Bric’s coming and going, taking the pressure off herself and understanding that Bric can only extend a portion of himself to her. Nor is he something she, and only she, can feel responsible for on her own.

I also really enjoyed the overarching concept of the old birthing room, turned guest bedroom, that our main character resides in while staying at Giulia and Fab’s home. Throughout the novel, our main character is rebirthing herself into a new person that lives with the loss and grief experienced in her life. It does not leave her completely, it just becomes a manageable part of the new person she’s growing into.

This is one of the most touching books I’ve read this year and I can see myself re-reading it in the future. It is surely one I will be recommending to my local literary book clubs. It is a novel to read with openness and care. I believe it is greatly worth it.

Book Review: ‘The Girls of Lake Evelyn’ by Averil Kenny

Before I jump into this book review, I would love to give one big hug and cheer out to Allen & Unwin, Echo Publishing and Averil Kenny for sending me this beautiful copy of ‘The Girls of Lake Evelyn’.

‘The Girls of Lake Evelyn’ is a story about a curse, a playwright and a runaway bride. It is a story that wraps you in hopes and dreams, and allows you as the reader to escape into a world where the essence of small community care, love and support trumps all adversity and challenge.

๐Ÿ’ฌ Let’s talk main characters:

Vivienne Brinsley is a high society young women living in Sydney at the beginning of the novel. It is the night before her wedding to Sydney’s biggest catch and high market man – yet she’s torn with feelings of dread and despair at signing up to a life she doesn’t truely want. Her mother cannot stand to listen to her discontent, so Vivienne turns to her Uncle Felix. Uncle Felix helps Viv escape her loveless relationship and expected life. He sets her travelling on a path to a small town in tropical North Queensland. Here Viv will find her confidence again, explore new friendships and possibly even fall in love with a rugged, handsome and hilarious dairy farmer, Owen.

Josie Monash is a small town gem! Even as a young woman, she has grown up to be a pivotal part of her community. Side stepping her dreams of city starlight and broadway, Josie has remained on her family dairy farm to take care of her Father and two brothers after her mother passed away. Josies’ Grandmother plays a big role in guiding her life choices and has always been a headstrong woman (maybe this is where Josie gets it from). Her Grandmother is determined to see Josie’s theatre directing skills have hit reviews in Sydney’s biggest newspaper. Her Grandmother can see such potential and how tirelessly she works to help others – now it’s Josie’s turn to bloom. So when Vivienne arrives to town and starts swimming in the cursed Lake Evelyn, Josie’s hit play seemingly comes to life.

โœ๏ธ Let’s talk plot:

Not so many years ago, a beautiful movie actress, Celeste Starr, tragically died in the lake and it spawned a curse that has plagued the town ever since. Josie’s play is set to uncover the true story behind the life of Celeste, yet it will not come without some adversity and unsettlement from community members. Lake Evelyn has been barricaded off for years now because of community fear. Josie is up against a number of people who do not trust Lake Evelyn and its ghosts.

As Josie persists with the play, people will begin to show their true colours. A number of characters are not who they seem and their small, unsettling parts in the novel, eventually surface what true motives lie beneath. Long kept secrets slowly reveal themselves in the most well paced and slow burning way!

โญ๏ธ Final thoughts:

I loved that this novel, much like Those Hamilton Sisters by Averil Kenny (click on the title to read my Author Talks with Averil). ‘The Girls of Lake Evelyn’ has all the good things you’re looking for in a time period novel. Drama โœ… Mystery โœ… Romance โœ… Perfectly paced reveals โœ… Escapism โœ…

I’m not lying to you when I say we have had to restock this novel in the book shop over 5 times now! Averil is a hit!! Her writing is DEvine and captures the reader with such lyricism that it becomes hard to put her novels down. I am so incredibly grateful to see, hold and enjoy another novel from her and can only predict that Averil is set to continue creating beautiful stories in the future. She is an instant purchase for me and I will be recommending her until the cows come home (๐Ÿฎ I hope this was an Owen approved pun!).

‘The Paper Palace’ by Miranda Cowley-Heller

How do I tell you generous reader, how much I’ve loved a book without telling you EVERYTHING about this book and giving away spoilers … keep reading to find out I suppose ๐Ÿคฃ

Favourite passage: Pg. 6 “… While the doctor is inside me, he cuts off an ovary, careless, rushing to carve the death out of life. this, too, I will not learn for many years. When I do, my mother cries for me for the second time. “I’m so sorry,” she says. “I should have made him be more careful …” – as if she’d had the power to change my fate, but chosen not to use it.

Later I lie in a hospital cot, arms tied down at my sides. I scream, cry, alive, livid with rage at this injustice. They will not let my mother feed me. Her milk dries up. Almost a week passes before they free my hands from their shackles. “You were always such a happy baby”, my father says. “Afterward,” my mother says, “you never stopped screaming.”

Favourite character: Wallace, Elle’s Mother

I devoured ‘The Paper Palace’ by Miranda Cowley-Heller in less than 24 hours! I am not joking when I say the pacing of this book being on point, the character development and historical exposure was just right and the story had me captivated from chapter one. Our opening scene is Elle, our main character, waking up at the paper palace – her maternal families beach side cabins in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The setting throughout this novel is very ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ by Delia Owens. If you liked Crawdads, think of this books as an instant buy – you will enjoy it just as much. Here is me giving you approval to go and buy ‘The Paper Palace’ right now!!

These beach side cabins have great significance to Elle, as it is the place she first experienced love and love lost, a horrific sexual assault and predatory behaviour from a family member, family breakdowns, isolation and death. All of these experiences we dissect as the story unfolds, and it is told through the structure of flashbacks – moving from past to present.

At some points of the book, we go right back and learn about Elle’s family on a generational scale. This gives us positionally and understanding for how Elle loves, her thought process’ and behaviours – most significantly within her marriage to Peter and decisions about Jonas. We learn about her grandmother’s marital and family home decisions, and how this has affected her mother’s childhood and behaviours. We then move onto her mother’s story and learn how sexual relationships, experiences and assault have impacted her relationships, marriages, mothering abilities and connection to her daughters. This brings Elle into the picture. When we move in the present, we are learning about Elle’s marriage to Peter and her lost love (or resurrected love) with Jonas. The flashbacks with Jonas were some of my favourites and seeing the two characters grow together was very captivating. We delve in bits and pieces into Elle’s father and his marital decisions – the divorce with Elle’s mother, his remarriage and what Elle’s relationship is like with him now. All of these peoples’ stories are giving meaning and understanding of why Elle is facing her uncertainties of love and marriage in the present.

If you look into this novel deep enough, it really is focusing on the impacts of generational trauma. That being; physical and sexual assault, marital breakdowns and the impact on children, emotional attachment as a child, blended families, secrets and their longterm impacts, as well as neglect. Maybe it is the Social Work part of my brain that appreciated the rawness of the writing and grit behind Elle’s mother, in particular her self-centred behaviour. I could see why Elle and her mother’s actions were justified.

Nevertheless, Elle’s marriage with Peter is challenging and beautiful, like most. But her love for Jonas is stemmed from first love, passion and longing. Even the ending leaves you uncertain of who she chose. This was my Literature Lovers book club pick for March and we had a wonderful meeting discussing every members thoughts, feelings and final conclusions on ‘The Paper Palace’. Overall, this book was a โญ๏ธโญ๏ธโญ๏ธโญ๏ธโญ๏ธ (5/5) for me. I could not put it down, nor would I stop raving about it to one of my lovely colleagues who gifted me the copy. She knew how much I’d love it and for that, I am very grateful xx

‘The Spanish Love Deception’ by Elena Armas

Okay so you know that chest caving, character loving, don’t touch me or talk to me or even breathe near me kind of feeling you get when reading a romance novel? Well, well, well – ‘The Spanish Love Deception’ will make your heart hurt SO MUCH in the best way possible!!

Not only will I gush to you online and in person at the book shop about this book, but I will also be shouting from the rooftops how DEVASTATED I am about having to wait 8 MONTHS before Elena Arma’s next book arrives on our shelves. Agh, the book pain is real! Elena’s next book is set to be published on the 6th of September and it is titled ‘The American Roommate Experiment’.

SOOooo Mel … get to the good part, the review!

Catalina is single and a short few weeks away from flying back to Spain for her sisters epic wedding. She moved to America in an attempt to reclaim her life and heal her broken heart after breaking up with her soon to be brother-in-law’s brother. Therefore, Catalina feels like the wedding will be a disaster if she rocks up alone. She needs to show her ex-boyfriend and her wide family that she is progressing with her life and achieving success. In walks her solution; office enemy, stubborn, rude and strangely attractive (๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿ˜‰) Aaron. He overhears Catalina’s ‘end of the world’ wedding scenario. Taking the plunge, he volunteers himself to be her date! This means flying to Spain together, pretending to be in love in front of her family, showing physical affection, sleeping in the same bed and well, keeping the arrangement hidden so Catalina’s family doesn’t suspect her love life isn’t as desperate as it actually is!

Que their ongoing love to hate relationship, and the cuteness that evolves to their falling in (actual) love. Aaron has a quiet persistence to prove how good of a ‘fake-date’ he is, but secretly and somewhat obviously, it is from a place of wanting Catalina to understand how much he really likes her. It takes a while for Catalina to see and feel that Aaron’s feelings are legitimate, but this just makes for more fun in their games of cat and mouse. Aaron is completely committed to investing in her happiness and wanting their relationship to evolve, regardless of their workplace conflict of interest. I really enjoyed their dynamic and seeing both their walls come down over time. I loved their trip to Spain and how much cultural immersion it allowed the reader to feel. I think this is a romance novel at its best.

Reading this book while suffering from a book slump really made it even more of a stand-out! I finished this book in less than 24 hours. It was EXACTLY what I was looking for and craving. Romance โœ… Love to hate banter โœ… Easy dialogue and world development โœ… Contemporary โœ… If you’re also looking for a book to soar you out of a book slump, ‘The Spanish Love Deception’ has all you, yes you, written all over it! I will 100% be re-reading this book before the end of the year.

‘Devotion’ by Hannah Kent

Hannah Kent has not failed to rip my heart out and then piece it back together again in her latest historical fiction novel, ‘Devotion’. I am in a book slump after reading this book and I’m finding it so hard to get the fictional characters of Hanne and Thea off my mind. Their love story is one for the ages and honestly, if you have not read this book, I strongly encourage you to find your nearest book store and buy a physical copy. Your note taking (if you’re that way inclined to annotate your books) is going to be flooded with pen marks and highlighted passages.

Growing up in the German village of Kay in 1830’s Prussia, Hanne represses her expectations of female friendships and socialising. She much prefers to be a child of nature as from a young age, believing to hear the whispers of trees, the nearby stream and the movement of air. Hanne knows that her love for nature makes her different from the other teenage girls in the village. It isn’t until she meets Thea that Hanne realises her long inherent beliefs of romantic love are also different.

Hanne’s family are set to follow their local Pastor to the new found land called South Australia. Here their community of Kay can continue to practice their Old Lutheran beliefs and spread the devotion of God. However, in order to get there they must sell everything they own and sail for months on end. (This is the part of the story where your heart will break. You will be baffled, you will find it hard to believe that Hannah has put us as the reader through this much horror, but you will also find it incredibly hard to stop reading).

At sea, they travel with their village for months on end. You feel the fear and uncertainly of being in the middle of the ocean without seeing land in sight, you smell the stagnate underneath living quarters and you sense that sickness and death is looming. It is inevitable and the inevitable does happen, but to whom? We see and feel love bloom, to then be ripped away from us. Hanne and Thea’s story falls short in so many ways but it only makes you realise how quickly your expectations of life can change in one moment.

The third section of this books is a mirage of life, yet through a different and troubling lens. It is raw and harrowing and heartbreaking. I continue to be utterly amazed at how hard hitting the writing of this novel is but yet it is delivered in such a rich and vibrant way. This is a big call to make but I truely believe that Hannah Kent had produced another national and international, award winning fiction. If this book does not move you, read it again! In my eyes, Hannah Kent is the reason we read fiction.

Book Review: ‘The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart’

Wow folks it’s been a hot minute! Where have you been Mel, you may ask? Well, it’s a busy time for bookselling and book recommendations! This makes me incredibly happy but it is also quite tiring, leaving me with limited time to write my regular book reviews. Things will slow down soon and uploading will become more regular – I promise ๐Ÿ˜‰

So, a little while back (maybe 2-3 weeks ago), I finished The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland and honestly, I can absolutely see why this debut Australian novel caused a stir of positive discussion in its publication year of 2019. Additionally, I believe it is truely well worth the 2019 Australian Book Industry Award.

To begin with, a little disclaimer that this novel is strongly focused on the effects of domestic abuse and it’s long-lasting repercussions. Don’t let this put you off because it is a beautifully woven story.

Alice Hart is a young girl at the beginning of this novel. She is living on an isolated property with her whimsical, young and intelligent mother who speaks daily with love to her flowers. However her father has a consuming presence in her childhood, utilising narcissistic and abusive behaviours to control both Alice and her mother. Alice is aware of her mothers physical signs of abusive, yet it isn’t until she is on the receiving end of her father’s behavioural abuse does she realise that her childhood is not necessarily a happy one. Events occur and Alice uncovers a hidden secret of her fathers which ultimately leaves her as an orphan. Alice’s world then expands in ways she never knew possible.

Alice’s paternal Grandmother, June (a family member she never even knew existed), becomes her legal guardian. June takes Alice to live on her flower farm, Thornfield. Thornfield actually doubles as both a workplace and a safe house for women and children escaping domestic abuse. This environment of love, support and kindness is all new for Alice and quite hard to comprehend.

We continue to live through Alices’ experiences as a teenager and then as a young woman. Artistically and brilliantly, each chapter starts with an image and description of an Australian native flower. We learn to understand the language of flowers with Alice, where each flower comes from, how they look and what they mean. Without giving too much away, Alice soon becomes tangled up in her own abusive relationship. Interestingly and intelligently, Holly Ringland has peeled back the layers of emotional, mental, financial and physical abusive all in one novel. It is eye-opening, destroying and hard to put down. You want to throw the book across the room in exhausted anger but scavenge it to keep reading! As the reader, you yearn for Alice to see through the behaviours of her partner yet it is so explainable as to see why she doesn’t, creating the perfect depiction for domestic abuse. You’re a witness to her inside thoughts but you’re also weighing up the decisions she’s making from the outside as the reader. It is fantastically terrifying.

I think, if you can give yourself the time before the end of the year, read this book. Or if not, add it to your TBR for 2022. It will stay with you and make you become a full on advocate for exposing and supporting domestic abuse in Australia – maybe even around the world.

Book Review: ‘The Labyrinth’

I am utterly speechless and surprised. Not only in this book but in myself. Literature is not often my forte, nor do I usually find pleasure and addictiveness in reading literary language, plots and character conversations – yet THIS! WOW! I am blown away and can 100% see why ‘The Labyrinth’ by Amanda Lohrey won the Miles Franklin Literary Award for 2021.

Where to start …

‘The Labyrinth’ begins with the introduction of Erica, our main character. She is reflecting on her time as a child where she has just witnessed her mother abandoning Erica and her brother, Axel. They are left in the care of their father, who raises the children on the ground of a psychiatric facility where he also works as the head psychiatric doctor. This environment sets a feeling and acknowledgement of intense mental health and psychotic episodes throughout the novel. This theme reoccurs when Erica is comparing the life and work of her father, to her son Daniel.

Daniel is an incredibly interesting character in this story as we meet him whilst in goal. Erica bought and moved into a small coastal beach shack to be closer to him. We know that he is in goal after obsessing over a person, mostly through painting and drawing this person over and over. It is implied that this obsession then took a bad turn. Daniel connects to the world through his art, and there is an amazingly dark scene where Erica visits Daniel in goal after she has written multiple times to the goal administration to allow Daniel oil pastels. Daniel receives these but at the visitation with Erica, he breaks one in half, sits half on the table for her and proceeds to place the other half in his mouth, chew it and smirk as Erica. It’s twisted and dark and psychotic. You’re left thinking as the reader, what does this mean?! All the while, Erica continues to visit him due to this feeling of responsibility for him being the way he is and self-sabotage.

The idea of building a labyrinth comes to Erica in a dream and she feels this overwhelming urge to create one. The process of designing, developing, finding the right stonemason, obtaining material and the emotional support along the way, is all part of the core plot. The story is quite simple, yet it isn’t. Majority of my book club really enjoyed this novel and felt that Erica’s journey really did represented a Labyrinth. The circling relationship with Daniel, the moving past different characters and not overly investing time in or with them, or getting to know them. Erica’s dreams and final scenes in the novel were incredibly raw and moving.

I love that the Literature Book Club I’m leading is really pushing me out of my comfort zone. The discussions are AWE-some and really switching on this appetite for more Australian literature. If you’re looking for a novel to ponder over long after it’s finished – read this one!

Book Review: ‘Love & Virtue’

Where do I start with this one … I really feel like many more reviews will do this book justice and be able to articulate the pleasurable feeling and satisfaction of fine literature this book provides. I will say that my perspective is one from the outside.

I have not lived a life of luxury, much like Michaela.

I have not lived a life of dominant feminist perspective or political projections thrust in my face like many characters within this novel.

I have not lived a city, elite and/or privileged life. Don’t get me wrong, I am fully aware of how privileged I am for living where I do, experiences and opportunities in my life yet in comparison to some expressions and environments in this novel – they truely baffle me (maybe that’s the small town girl in me). What is more baffling, is that these places, events and types of personalities exist within the world. Basing this book in Sydney had a large impact on my perspective of elite social classes and their impact on society.

‘Love & Virtue’ by Diana Reid is an Australian debut novel. One of many stella novels to come from the new kids on the block, Ultimo Press. They are picking up and supporting bold, fresh and impactful Australian writers and they truely knew what they were doing with this one.

The focal themes in this novel are power, privilege, consent and well, love. We love who we love, even when their actions seek to destroy our sense of being. Michaela and Eve have an instant female friendship at university living across from one another in their dorms. This is their commonality yet their lives are completely parallel. Eve is transfixed, shines as the centre of attention and seeks to make an impact in this world – she wants change, particularly in the space of sexual consent and public recognition in their Sydney girls college. Eve believes that her writing and influential abilities on campus deem her the most appropriate person to share Michaela’s sexual experiences in her drunken O-Week. One experience that Michaela was still uncertain of her own standpoint, which in my eyes represented the misinformation of sexual consent and sexual behaviour within the realms of alcohol consumption and college/university behaviour. This, I believe was written well.

The voice of Michaela is so strong in this novel that I found it incredibly hard to remove myself from her talking and thinking. From listening to her navigate both friendship and intimate relationships, succumbing to the opinion of others and attempting to take a step back and view her world from an outside perspective when you’re stuck in this whirlwind/secluded world of privilege. Her character was so unique yet so perfectly placed for juxtaposition that you couldn’t not understand her point of view in comparison to Eve – subtile yet so clear. Social media and the power of technology is also evident and clever within the structure of this book – I liked the contemporary use of texting and Instagramming as dialogue.

I am temporarily leading our Literary Lovers Book Club and I had chosen this for our October read. I think it has challenged me and opened for a wide variety of conversational topics at our meeting. Some questions thus far will be:

  1. Did you connect with the primary voice of Michaela?
  2. What impact do you think the novel would have had being told from Eve’s perspective?
  3. Was there a scene that stood out to you the most? (I won’t tell you mine because it’s a spoiler***!)
  4. Do you think connecting sexual consent to a campus setting was a good move? Why?
  5. What are some of the ways Diana Reid represented elite privilege in characters, events and environments?

All in all, I really REALLY enjoyed this book and if I didn’t have so many books on my TBR, I’d safely say I’d go back and re-read this novel. I’m looking forward to discussing these questions and more at my book club meeting. Oh, and a HUGE congratulations to Diana Reid and Ultimo Press – what an epic way to burst onto the Australian book scene and get Australian society talking about timely topics that need serious attention!

Book Review: ‘100 Remarkable Feats of Xander Maze’

Oh Xander Maze, what a special and long-lasting place in my heart you’ve got. ‘100 Remarkable Feats of Xander Maze’ by Clayton Zane Comber has flown up there on my top 3 list of Australian Young Adult novels. I finished this book in four sittings as it’s amount of dialogue, perfectly paced character experiences/developments, as well as its heart-warming plot really pulled me in – and QUICK!

Xander Mazes’ Nanna is his #1 person he trusts in his life. His curated ‘Memory List’ includes numerous happy, warm and safe memories with her. But Nanna is terminally ill and has recently moved into end of life care. Xander recognised this new environment of Nanna’s because it has less beep and whir noises than the regular hospital. Xander notes that he will have to make a new mental map of this hospital layout while Nanna is a patient.

Nanna suggests Xander make a list of ‘100 Remarkable Feats’ and ticks them off in the wish it can help his Nanna feel better, yet Xander interprets this as a way he can help save his Nanna’s life and prevent loosing her forever. This list soon goes viral (thanks to the help of his clever Nanna) and Xander’s world is about to change.

Making a best friend, having a ‘yes’ day, asking out Ally (#1 prettiest girl ever), driving a car for the first time, learn to surf, go to a party, befriend weird neighbour Mr. Abramowitz, make Nanna proud – are just a few of the 100 feats. Xander’s development and journey is hard to draw your reading eyes away from. His innocence in the beginning really helps mould his character and maturity throughout the novel. I kind of felt like a proud Mum reading this book. I’m proud of what Xander achieved with his list and how it allowed him to bloom in this new world he created with the help of new friends and family.

I look forward to the day that I can visit Clayton Zane Comber’s book store/cafe ‘Bouqiniste’ in Kiama, NSW! I also look forward to reading more of his work. Okay now that’s me signing off to read ‘The Gilded Cage’ by Lynette Noni ๐Ÿ‘‹๐Ÿผ

Book Review: ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’

I gave into the hype, I did it and I’m telling you … I really, really don’t regret it. If you have been hesitant like me about reading the ridiculously loved, discussed and recommended novel ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ by Delia Owen – I am here to vouch that this book is great! Buy it, loan it, read it and let’s talk about it ๐Ÿ˜โœจ

Clever. That is my overarching word, expression and summary for this book. Not only has Delia Owens written in a descriptive yet simplistic way, she has allowed us as the reader to connect with Kya who is our main character. We are also strongly invested in the death, or supposed murder of Chase Andrews.

Kya’s life isn’t easy. Her father has strong symptoms of PTSD, domestic abuse and alcoholism. Due to her family living within the deep marshland of North Carolina, the neglectful family environment goes unseen and unknown. Kya’s mother walks out on her uneducated, poor and scared children. Eventually, Kya is left to fend for herself and her father – constantly in a state of pining, grief and hoping her mother may return to the marsh. Eventually, her father also leaves and so Kya is left to completely fend for herself. We see her develop hands-on environmental intellect, sufficiency and resilience from a very young age and well into her teens – where she meets Chase Andrews, ‘the town golden-boy’.

Shifting back and forward of time is something I really enjoy in period novels. Delia Owens has perfected the technique as it provided the reader with suspicion, curiosity and a number of motives as to why/when/how/who may have been involved in Chase Andrews’ death.

The love expressed throughout this book – oh, how good it is!! Over time, Kya was exposed to and learnt how to feel supported and cared for by multiple people. It wasn’t just the assumed modern ‘love story’ scenario. Slang, twang and small town community culture/gossip held this novel in a different light. As the story takes place in the mid-1900’s, African American culture is hugely ostracised and rejected. Kya finds that her reputation as the ‘Marsh Girl’ pockets her in the same category – largely leading to the accusations and theories that spread about her and Chase.

Poetry, mother nature and the interesting scientific facts of insects, birds and animal relationships, really do complement the story. Clever – as I said at the beginning. Trust me, it will all make sense when you read it (which I throughly encourage you to do)! Reece Witherspoon was also behind the push for movie production/ book adaptation of Where the Crawdads Sing. I can’t wait to see this on film in 2022 ๐Ÿ“ฝ๐ŸŽž