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The First Book of Calamity Leek

3.56  ·  Rating details ·  629 ratings  ·  158 reviews
Books tell you what to believe.
Books explain the world around you.
What if a book had been written to explain a world constructed for you?
What if that world suddenly fell apart?

Calamity Leek needs a new book, but she's going to have to write it herself.
Paperback, 320 pages
Published April 5th 2016 by Flatiron Books (first published February 1st 2013)
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Cassandra Despite multiple clues to the contrary, I read the entire first 100 pages as if the slang was American southern and was having a difficult time of it.…moreDespite multiple clues to the contrary, I read the entire first 100 pages as if the slang was American southern and was having a difficult time of it. Once I realized it should have been British slang, I felt as though I should have begun again.

Still not sure what I think of it, but I finished it and am still thinking about it so it must have been worthwhile. :)(less)

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Tiffany PSquared
I've been thinking, what is it makes us in here so right, and all them out there so wrong?

Life was exactly what it was supposed to be until Truly Polperro tried to lift the sky lid. Calamity Leek and her sisters were preparing for their epic battle against all the world's men - just like every other day - but then Truly had to go Out of Bounds.

This was honestly one of the strangest books I've ever read. I kept thinking, "Surely, after this chapter things will become clearer." Not really. The b
I've never read anything like this!

This crazy book started off with a super-confusing first chapter, during which I had absolutely no idea what I was reading. The blurb about this book (the "Calamity Leek needs to write her own book" one) did not prepare me for what I was getting into. My first thoughts were: huh? wha-whaat? what am I reading? what is going on??

Once I got over my initial absolute confusion, things just kept getting better.

This book is about perspective. It's about worldviews, an
In the first chapter of this novel, the reader is introduced to Calamity Leek, a girl living a distinctly peculiar life - locked away in a self-contained world 'behind the Wall', along with her thirteen (similarly unusually-named) 'sisters'. It's evident from the start that there is something very odd about Calamity's existence and what she believes about both the place she lives in, and the world outside it. A few pages later, in the third chapter, we find Calamity full of anger and confusion, ...more
Maya Panika
Jan 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It was quite a while before I began to enjoy this. The style is peculiar. It was hard work. For the first several chapters, I had absolutely no idea what was going on (and not sure if I cared very much, either). But then, just as I was wondering if anything was ever going to happen (or indeed, make any sense at all), the fog began to lift, the story began to emerge, the horror of the situation showed its petticoats and suddenly, I was absolutely riveted to the tale of poor, damaged Calamity Leek ...more
Mar 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An extraordinary name, an extraordinary world, and an extraordinary story.

Calamity Leek lives a closed world, in a sheltered rose garden surrounded by a high brick wall, one of twelve ‘sisters’ being brought up by the grand, imperious ‘Mother’ and her loyal second-in-command, ‘Aunty’.

Their way of life, everything in their world is governed by a book they must learn by heart. It defines their history, their culture, their view of the world beyond the wall. Everything. And what a strange world it
Strange book. I'm not sure what I think about it. I did not hate it, neither did I find it tedious. I wasn't overwhelmed and I guessed what was happening pretty early so it wasn't off-putting. But, I didn't love it either.

I found it terrifying, because I can easily imagine the situation depicted in the book. That there are people crazy enough to do such a thing goes without saying. I can also believe how easy it is to be brain-washed, especially when young and by people pretending to love you.
Renita D'Silva
Oct 20, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved this quirky, very original, hard-to-put-down story. Calamity's voice is brilliant and I adored the way the juxtaposition between the world she believes and the real world. I loved the way the truth was revealed to us bit by tantalizing bit. The ending left a sour taste in my mouth, but then that is my opinion. I suppose it suited the story and Calamity, but oh, I wish it had ended differently.
Feb 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
This book was a rough start. It threw me into the middle of a story, and I had a bit of a struggle in getting my bearings. But it still hooked me in, made me want to figure out what was going on, so I continued reading.

And it gradually became a very different story from what I was anticipating. It's all about perspective. As I kept going, I felt a bit off-centre, reading about a girl who I was fairly sure was becoming something of a sympathetic villain. And while Calamity's character arc is ent
Arlene Allen
Sep 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'm not sure what book some people read but this most certainly is not "a mashup of Margaret Atwood and Roald Dahl" - unless those authors were run over by a Stephen King. And it's certainly no fairy tale (not even the Grimmest of Grimms) unless you consider Lord of the Flies" a fairy tale.

This is nothing short of a horror novel of the twisted psychological kind, so disturbing it might keep you up at night.

Unfortunately describing the plot in detail spoils some of the twists and turns but I'll
Haley Wynn
Jun 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
I picked this novel up on a blind whim; while I was casually gliding through the fiction section at my local bookstore, I happened to see the word "Leek" and decided to look at the book. I think I literally screamed giddy squeals when I discovered the most appealing blurb on the back: "A mash-up of Margaret Atwood and Roald Dahl. " - Lady Magazine (UK)

Seeing as I am a fan of Margaret Atwood's fine works of literary art, I thoroughly enjoyed every quirky, obscurely referenced page and struggled w
Katy Noyes
Feb 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a great read! So glad I asked NewBooks for a review copy.
A truly original viewpoint on the characters' unique situation. This is a book that you have to be careful discussing as you wouldn't want to spoil the surprises and plot for other readers.
It starts with confusion - just what is going on? Where are these girls and why?
Slowly and in drips, their situation is made clearer, lots of 'ohhhhh!' moments.
I was reminded of Boy in the Striped Pajamas for the narrator and confusion and Into the
Dec 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read the paperback version. I highly praise Paula Lichtarowicz who has managed to write a very original book that stands out alone. The First Book Of Calamity Leek is a very beautiful book. Each page is dazzling with a prose of words like poetry. Each short chapter had me twitching that wanted me to read on and to know more. The story is told in a very special way that boosts fantasy and illuminates imaginative vibrant characters that each have an inspirational creative voices. I have never re ...more
Dec 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: dnf
Maybe I should have tried harder, but the language and the plot were so confusing that I had to give up. But, after reading the reviews, it sounds like I would have been rewarded, had I stuck with it. Maybe I'll try again.

UPDATED: tried again. Pushed through the first confusing chapter and this ended up being one of the best books I read in 2016! Couldn't put it down. Hard to review without giving too much away. This book tells the tale of on Ms. Calamity Leek, who finds herself in a most unusua
May 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is very strange. It is unlike anything I have ever read. I appreciate all the Goodsreads reviewers who reviewed the book and didn't spoil it. It truly is a book that is best if you know nothing when you start. This review will also contain no spoilers.

I spent the first half of the book completely confused. I thought it was a fairy tale, but I couldn't follow what was happening and all the names were confusing, especially since the animals had people names so I was never sure if a refe
Sep 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2017
I almost set this book down after the first few chapters, when I had NO CLUE what was going on. It did become more clear as the book went on and I'm glad I finished, but it was definitely one of the strangest books I've ever read.

The book is written from the voice of Calamity Leek, who is secluded with her "sisters" and we don't quite know what is going on until over halfway through the novel. I cannot tell in this review because the discovery is one of the main positives in this story. I would
Mar 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Imagine "Whatever happened to baby Jane?" mashed up with Lord of the Flies and Ridley Walker.
Made up world, made up words, made up truths.
Absolutely fascinating.
Mar 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book was one of the most interesting I've read-- I saw one description that called it a combination of Roald Dahl and Margaret Atwood, and I think that's pretty accurate, as odd as it is to imagine. The language and descriptions were so unique and actually a challenge to read... they got easier as it went on, because you started getting more and more context and clues.

The thing that made this book extra special was the choice of narrator. Usually in dystopian-style (though this book isn't e
Oct 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016-reads
Echoing Mark Haddon's cover endorsement, "Wonderfully strange." That it is. This might be the most novel novel I've read this year (55 books up to now.). Lichtarowicz's Calamity Leek is cleverly done, amazing and mesmerizing. Beginning the book I felt completely confused, but at the same time hooked. It is a tale of 16 young girls living in a walled garden isolated from the outside world. The dialogue is intriguing, the language in some ways archaic. Plenty of names to remember and keep sorted. ...more
Mar 02, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I looooooveeeee mindfuck books! (also movies like shutter island or atonement ^^) This IS one of my favorite mindfuck books, which is actually one of the only.....

At the beginning it was a bit confusing (Actually reaaaaaally confusing)
I didn't know what the hack is going on and I kept telling myself: Just read the book....keep reading! Just keep reading! And the result: Woahhhhhh, just damn!!!! Oh my god MiNd FuCk

A lot of things happened at the end and fast. I couldn't keep all the information i
Calamity Leek lives with her 23 sisters behind the Wall of Safe-keeping, under the guardianship of Aunty and Mother, with The Appendix to instruct them how to live good lives. It is through Calamity's eyes (and her wonderful turn of phrase) that we learn of the Outside, of the demonmales that threaten them and of the war that the sisters are preparing to wage. We learn of Dorothy's logic, Annie's curiosity and Maria's descent into madness. However, while some of her sisters start to question the ...more
Apr 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley, 2013
The First Book of Calamity Leek by Paula Lichtarowicz is one really strange book.

At first I thought this story is about girls in a loony-pin, then in a nunnery, then in a cult. Then was said they where in Wales, so I thought they where in nunnery's asylum for abused girls. For a while there I was reminded of a movie Sucker Punch. Then again I was more inclined that it was a cult that raises girls for human-trafficking. At the end come out it was "Nunnery's orphanage" for abducted girls who where
Sep 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-i-own, fiction
This book is a cautionary tale about dogma, what happens when shitty people raise kids, a horror tale about not having the ability to think for oneself, and the bad, bad affects of peer pressure.

Calamity is not a hero, or even very likable and I wish the author would write two additional books about these characters. The first one about Calamity’s realization of how weak brained she is, including every last detail on the soul crushing guilt that would come with that realization. The second one
May 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Well. That was effed up.

It's a better experience if you don't know anything about this story, going in. Some I'm going to focus on other aspects of the books. Such as:

- The incredibly strong narrative voice
- The fact that this book gave me literal nightmares
- The author keeps messing with you, which I found hilarious
- Just when you laugh, some detail is revealed and you want to barf
- Then, showtunes

Yeah. So, I recommended this one to my husband - to be read immediately. It was certainly right up
Lucy Ashby
Jan 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had no idea what this book was about before I started reading it, and after the first few pages I did not think that I was going to enjoy it. However when it dawned on me what was going on I was compelled to keep reading and found that I could not put it down.

This is a tragic tale about a group of young girls, but it is told very cleverly and with humour. There are many moments you can't help but smile at even though you are increasingly aware of the sinister meaning behind them.

I don't want t
May 04, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
If I was designing a book I was definitely going to like, it might have looked something like this one – coming of age, speculative fiction, strong female narrative voice, school setting, dystopia, cult-ish, character-driven, quirky premise, good reviews. A bit like the brilliant Never Let Me Go. And yet this book infuriated, disturbed and bored me in equal measures. Its technique of slowly revealing what’s happening is just too slow – and confusing and tedious. The characters who should have co ...more
Kayleigh  D'Andilly
Aug 21, 2016 rated it liked it
As calamity Leek herself would say
Well what a dark and emotional story.

To start with you have to be committed to reading this because it is completely confusing and doesn't make one bit of sense. But stick with it and everything will become clear.

The blurb doesn't really give you much information, just enough to make you want to read it so I was totally unprepared for what was at its heart a very tragic tale.
Normal I wouldn't read this kind of book but it was almost written like a fairytal
For Books' Sake
Apr 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"A fantastical, peculiar, and brilliantly-executed début, Paula Lichtarowicz’s The First Book of Calamity Leek is a rollicking take on dystopian fiction.

The eponymous, teenage Calamity Leek lives in a sheltered rose garden along with her ‘sisters’ – an all-female world entirely unto itself, surrounded by a high brick wall, and ruled over by the distant, tyrannous ‘Mother’ and her henchman ‘Aunty’." (Excerpt from full review at For Books' Sake.)
Jul 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Enough crazy and mysterious to pique interest in the beginning but not so "I'm trying to be quirky" to leave you feeling aggravated. Loved the characters, especially at the end when their "truths" unfold further... What was really disturbing (and great) was the untold stories not being told - the holes that were left when their stories got taken into the garden.
Gayle Hector
Oct 16, 2016 rated it did not like it
Utter garbage. Don't recommend to anyone suffering from anxiety/depression. How this was ever published is beyond me. A lot of idiotic dribble.
Aug 02, 2017 rated it did not like it
One of the most frustrating books I've read in a long time. Mainly because of our narrator Calamity Leek who's intriguing at first while you're trying to figure out what's going on in this story, but turns out to be the dumbest, dullest character I've ever met in a setting that had the potential to be so great. While I respect that this book didn't take the typical dystopian perspective of a rebel-type who fights back against the society in which she lives, I still found myself wishing Clam woul ...more
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Paula Lichtarowicz was born in Cheshire and studied English literature at Durham University and psychology at the University of London. When not writing, she makes television documentaries. She lives in London. THE FIRST BOOK OF CALAMITY LEEK is her debut.