A lot to like, but not enough to love. 3.5/5 stars.
The blurb: Foolish love appears to be the Roux family birthright, an ominous forecast for its most recent progeny, Ava Lavender. Ava—in all other ways a normal girl—is born with the wings of a bird.
In a quest to understand her peculiar disposition and a growing desire to fit in with her peers, sixteen-year old Ava ventures into the wider world, ill-prepared for what she might discover and naïve to the twisted motives of others. Others like the pious Nathaniel Sorrows, who mistakes Ava for an angel and whose obsession with her grows until the night of the Summer Solstice celebration.
That night, the skies open up, rain and feathers fill the air, and Ava’s quest and her family’s saga build to a devastating crescendo.
It’s so hard reviewing books that you think are “ok”. Or in this case, “ok and the writing was impressive in places”. I apologize if this review is a disconnected rambled of positives and negatives… It’s my own fault for, once again, being seduced by a beautiful blue and yellow book cover!
The book is only 300 pages long, which is good because it didn’t need to be any longer. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until page 120 that I found myself interested in the plot, which is a bit too long in such a short book. A less patient reader might well abandon the story before then.
I’ve never been a huge fan of magic realism. It’s done rather well here, but the more “unreal” elements of the plot distance the characters from us and make it harder for us to care about them. I didn’t really believe in or sympathize with any of their feelings, which is a shame because the characters were interesting, if a little insubstantial.
In it’s best moments, this book reminded me of Laura Esquivel’s wonderful Like Water for Chocolate. This is a compliment, but unfortunately it also made me think, “Oh, how great was Like Water for Chocolate? I really must make time to re-read that. This book in my hands just isn’t as good. I wonder where my copy of Like Water for Chocolate is…”
And a final niggle: the story is narrated in first-person by Ava, but apparently she’s omniscient. So she tells us what all the other characters are thinking and feeling when there’s no way she could have known that. This was odd and again, made it harder for me to believe in the characters and events depicted.
Overall: an impressive debut which may hold greater appeal for firm fans of magic realism. Everyone else should start with Like Water for Chocolate.
Claire Huston / Art and Soul