Absolutely killer (pardon the pun) prologue, a diverse cast and an intriguing twist at the end, but the middle really suffers from a plodding pace....more 2.5
Absolutely killer (pardon the pun) prologue, a diverse cast and an intriguing twist at the end, but the middle really suffers from a plodding pace. By the time the climax arrived it felt like too little too late and I had a hard time summoning any interest in the fate of the characters and the "reveal".
What really didn't work for me, however, was the dialogue, which was stilted at best and dare I say "middle-aged" at worst. I didn't for a second believe that the teen characters, or even the older supporting cast, would speak like that.
The premise is a good one, but the characters were thinly developed and I never really felt engaged with Pan as a narrator.
Disappointing, because that chilling prologue really got my hopes up. (less)
So, this was good. Templeman has taken various elements and symbols from original fairytales and blended them into something intriguing and quite d...more3.5
So, this was good. Templeman has taken various elements and symbols from original fairytales and blended them into something intriguing and quite dark (though it's no Tender Morsels). While I initially found the writing slightly distancing, the worldbuilding, strong mystery, and well developed characters made the story compelling.
* * * * * A thousand WTFs at this horrible cover. (less)
“I found it ironic that I should be blessed with wings and yet feel so constrained, so trapped. It was because of my condition, I believe, that I noticed life's ironies a bit more often than the average person. I collected them: how love arrived when you least expected it, how someone who said he didn't want to hurt you eventually would.”
I took a long time to read The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender because I didn’t want to reach a point where I was finished with this story. I wanted to linger with it and savour each page, drawing out the experience. I wanted to taste every word, dark and luscious, and ingest it slowly, piece by piece.
Leslye Walton’s intricate weave of reality and fantasy, an alloyed world forged from the magical and the mundane, is constructed around three generations of women. The story is related by Ava Lavender, girl born with wings, but it’s a history shared and connected through family. It is a collection of their loves and sorrows, entwined and inseparable, chronicled by Ava and culminating in her embrace of all that she is. It’s a story of love denied, love unrequited, love lost, love yearned for, love freely given, love unconditional. It’s a story of family and home and shadowy places carved in hearts by pain and regret.
Walton’s use of language reminds me a little of Margo Lanagan’s: rich and distinctive, with an undercurrent of darkness that occasionally leaches through. It’s prose to be immersed in, elegant and languid. There is some distance in the voice, as this is the adult Ava recounting her childhood and the lives of her mother and grandmother, but the writing is steeped in vivid and immediate imagery and threads of foreshadowing that pull the narrative forward. The plot itself is spare, and almost meanders until the final third where urgency begins to gather in Ava’s story, but the story doesn’t feel sluggish. Rather, underpinning the gradual unfurling of Emilienne, Viviane and Ava’s interlocking stories is a sense that something lies in wait, that there will be a pivotal moment for these women, one that will mark them indelibly.
The novel explores isolation – both physical and emotional – and how we may become confined within walls of our own making, well intentioned or otherwise. How love sometimes blinds us, at other times opens our eyes. There is violence and pain, longing and desire of many forms in this story – the beautiful and grotesque, the fragile and powerful . Walton writes about the various facets of human love and how it shapes lives and alters hearts; protects us and also makes us vulnerable. It is a bittersweet triumph of being human, of living and loving and loss.
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is an exquisite blend of impossibility and certainty; magical realism that is entirely convincing. Part saga, part memoir, part mythology – it is a story written in blood and feathers of what it is to love. (less)
This is a question Megan Abbott explores in the darkly hypnotic novel, The Fever, distilling the experience of being a teena...moreWhat is it to be a girl?
This is a question Megan Abbott explores in the darkly hypnotic novel, The Fever, distilling the experience of being a teenage girl into potent, unsettling form. While the writing is languid, hazy, there’s an almost fever-dream intensity to this story, a palpable anxiety leaching from the scenes as Abbott examines the fervour and cruelty girls are capable of. As the fear of contagion blooms into hysteria, the novel addresses the parallel fear society often levels at girls, and the cultural apprehension surrounding the mythos and lore of the Teenage Girl.
The Fever presents this uneasiness from several vantage points. From within, through Deenie, we experience the shifting of allegiances, the intricacies of friendships, the exoticism of “otherness”. The tangle of resentment and desire. Deenie is both a participant and an observer of the panic that sweeps the community; at once afraid and an object of fear. Her position in her group of friends is similarly complex: as she contemplates her closeness with Lise and Gabby, she also questions it, aware of a shifting dynamic and new tensions at play.
From outside, for Deenie’s brother Eli, teenage girlhood is shrouded in mystery and full of strange rites. For all his familiarity with girls’ bodies, the complexities of their relationships and personalities take on a cultish secrecy, a language he doesn’t understand. Eli is aware of the changes in his sister, but is reluctant to acknowledge them. For Eli, her transition is something unknowable and murky, complicated by the presence of her friends and their own transformations.
And Tom Nash, Deenie’s father, for whom Deenie is fragile and precious and drifting further and further away from him. Tom wants to protect Deenie, and yet is aware that it’s impossible to do so indefinitely.
“What happens when someone touches her someday and doesn’t understand these things about her? That she was both fearless and fragile and could be hurt badly in ways he could not fix.”
While The Fever revolves around the mysterious illness – provoking seizures and hallucinations in teenage girls - it deals with burgeoning sexuality and small town politics, the social hierarchy of high school and the wounds inflicted by abuse, neglect, divorce. It’s a razor sharp portrayal of a community tearing apart in paranoia and blame. It handles adolescence, in all of its beauty and ugliness: the headiness and mess of it, the shame and fear projected on female bodies and sexuality.
“You spend a long time waiting for life to start – the past year or two filled with all these firsts, everything new and terrifying and significant – and then it does start and you realise it isn’t what you’d expected, or asked for.”
The Fever is a mesmerizing, grotesque novel; a chilling mystery with a dark heart. Recommended.
A review copy was provided by the publisher via NetGalley (less)