On my honeymoon I read. I also did other lovely newlywed-related activities; I learned to shoot an arrow (incase my new husband should try to run away) and drive a segway. I also spent many a hilarious hour trying to teach a very long-limbed man how to row a boat, and got bitten in the face by a dog (she didn’t like strangers touching her back end – girl after my own heart) as well as partook in other honeymoon specific activities (….bamchicawowow). But apart from all that exertional activity, I read.
I used to read an awful lot. I spent my entire childhood in books which eventually led to my degree in English Literature and Creative Writing. However what with the invention of Netflix and highly portable internet devises, my reading time began to twindle but recently I started to fear that my brain was becoming an addled mess of Americanised smush. So I packed my hand luggage full of trusty books (don’t get me started on Kindles) and lugged them all the way to Scotland (where, luckily for me, internet was not in infinite supply).
This leads me to my point (knew I’d get there eventually): Reviews! I am great at criticising, being critical is a particular talent of mine, consider me blessed with the infinitely arched eyebrow (figuratively speaking, I actually can’t raise one eyebrow, I’ve spent hours of my life trying, it really feels like something I should be able to do). So I shall be reviewing each of the books I read during my Scottish retreat, starting with The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, by Leslye Walton.
I would also like to point out at this point that there are no spoilers in this review, I’ve read a lot of online book reviews that start with an annoying “*Spoilers!*” and it strikes me that there is far more point in reading a book review before reading the actual book and therefore that review should not spoil the beautiful unfurling of an unknown narrative that is in fact the entire point of reading.
So, book number 1 – The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, Leslye Walton
This is a does-what-it-says-on-the-tin (-cover) scenario – it is indeed a strange and beautiful book. First and foremost it is about love, love is the anchor of the entire narrative but it is full of complicated and dark loves; loves that go unsaid; loves that hurt; loves that ultimately ruin lives, which got to me just a little bit. As I said to my brand new, shiny husband during a vigorous walk over a Scottish mountain (that’s why he was so shiny), it strikes me that love isn’t always so complicated, Chris did quite rightly point out that perhaps that doesn’t make for such an interesting story but I’m not sure. I’m constantly astounded by how a complicated species like human can so simply give in to love. One day all your priorities and dreams are set, then you meet a ridiculously tall and odd person and they’re all instantly changed, just like that, because of the sheer simplicity of falling in love. Of course the fall-out from this can be a little more complicated but I am forever astounded by how easy it is to fall irrevocably, beautifully and all-consumingly in love. But perhaps Chris is right…less ground for interesting twists and turns there.
Apart from the book being essentially about love, it’s also about a girl (Ava Lavender) born with a lovely pair of speckled wings (that’s not a spoiler by the way, it says so on the back). This is what made me pick up the book in the first place (that and the shiny bits on the cover). Walton achieves the reality of this really well, and her lovely use of imagery makes it all seem completely plausable. One example of this is when a very little and winged Ava discovers that the most comfortable way to sleep, is to rest the tip of her left wing on her nose. This detail left me with a lovely image of a sweet little bundle of baby and feathers sleeping peacefully, an image that has stayed with me and a very clever connotation towards the way un-winged babies often sleep with their thumb in their mouth and their index finger curled around their nose (cute), giving a real air of reality to quite a fantastical character. The essential telling of the story is actually beautifully done, I love the tone of phrase that Walton adopts, and her biography style helps make the peculiar premise a far more tangible tale. It’s full of vision and character and the woman clearly has the most wonderful imagination, plus I didn’t see the end coming (and I always see the end coming).
Having said all this nice stuff the book did leave me with a slightly unsettled feeling, probably because it was more traumatic than I expected and the end is a wee bit ambiguous, just a wee bit – if the rest of the book wasn’t so much about the violent casualties of love and unfulfilled love I’d probably feel less ambitious about the finishing line. The only other criticism I have is that I really wouldn’t class it as Young Adult Literature (the category it is described as), I really wouldn’t feel comfortable recommending it to anyone under 17 years old.
All in all I’d recommend taking the time to read The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender and I’d love to hear your thoughts on it when your finished!