Maja (The Nocturnal Library)'s Reviews > The Returning

The Returning by Christine Hinwood
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5 stars for quality, 3 stars for personal enjoyment.
The Returning isn't a book I would normally choose to read, because a) I try to avoid historical fiction as much as I can; and b) as a former literature student, I've read my fair share of literary fiction and, unless it was written by Coetzee, I have no desire to read any more in the next five years or so. Historical + literary usually means I'd rather eat dirt, thank you very much. However, this isn't just any book. Aside from being a Printz Honor, it was blurbed by both Megan Whalen Turner and Melina Marchetta. Here's what they wrote:

”I loved this novel. I cried through the whole last chapter from the sheer beauty of these characters and their world.”
-Melina Marchetta, author of Jellicoe Road, Printz Medal winner

“A beautiful examination of the complexities of love and loyalty in the aftermath of war.”
- Megan Whalen Turner, author ot The Thief, Newberry Honor winner


Obviously, with words like that, these two could persuade me to read a math textbook and actually enjoy it. And I did enjoy The Returning for the most part. The beauty of its prose, the skillfully crafted web in which so many characters were entangled, the extraordinary use of language – outdated to enhance the historical feel, but slightly alien to match the non-existent land… all those things were even better than I expected. And yet, Hinwood didn’t quite reach me on an emotional level, not like an author endorsed by Marchetta and Turner should have.

The residents of Kayforl in Downlads are living a quiet, hardworking life. Several years earlier, six healthy men marched to war against the Uplanders, but only young Cam Attling, who looks suspiciously like an Uplander himself, returned. Their former enemy is now their new Lord and nobody failed to notice how highly Cam Attling speaks of him.
Cam Attling hasn’t really been welcomed back by anyone but his family and his best friend Ban who is hopelessly in love with him. He’s lost an arm in the war and he suffers from survivor’s guilt, but he is unable to settle down. His betrothal to young Graceful Fenister was broken by her father and Cam feels useless and unaccepted, even by Ban.
Ban is struggling with his feelings for Cam and his responsibility towards his large family. He is worried that his brothers are right and that Cam really is a bad influence, but he is unable to stay away.
As Cam leaves Kayforl for the second time, he causes more pain and heartbreak than he could ever have imagined.

The Returning clearly isn’t for everyone: it requires a lot of patience and it has to be read slowly, carefully, to truly appreciate all the layers, the beauty and the heartbreak it has to offer. I’m very glad I decided to read it and I might even reread it at some point. I'm convinced it will be even better the second time.

A copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher via Netgalley for review purposes.

Also posted at The Nocturnal Library
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