Sunday, 17 April 2016

'The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender' by Leslye Walton

*This review will contain spoilers!*
'To many, I was myth incarnate, the embodiment of a most superb legend, a fairy tale. Some considered me a monster, a mutation. To my great misfortune, I was once mistaken for an angel. To my mother, I was everything. To my father, nothing at all. To my grandmother, I was a daily reminder of loves long lost. But I knew the truth - deep down, I always did. 
I was just a girl.' 
As you can imagine, this is the story of Ava Lavender. She introduces the book herself in the prologue, written as an introduction set in 2014 (seventy years after Ava's birth). The main body of the novel is written in a memoir style, recounting the stories of her great-grandmother, her grandmother, her mother, and eventually teenage Ava's first person perspective. Through their stories, we learn how love hurt them all during their lives.
I really don't know what words to use to describe my feelings towards this book.
Strange is certainly a good one. '...Ava Lavender' is filled to the brim with magical realism: the girl who turns herself into a canary, the mother who dissolves into ash after her husband disappears, and of course Ava herself. None of these occurrences are explained, they're just taken at face value. If it had been a fantasy world, rather than the contemporary setting of America in the 1940s-70s that had been so wonderfully crafted, it would have made more sense - as it was the feeling of the unbelievable, the mysterious, prevailed throughout the novel.
Beautiful is a good word to use, too. For a debut novel, Leslye has a very distinctive style of writing, and the rises and falls in her prose are almost musical. I was becoming more confused by the events that were occurring in the novel due to their inexplicable nature, but I was finding myself enjoying it more too, just because of Leslye's writing.
There's really nothing else I can say. I'm still confused on what happened, and I definitely think there was a lot more to the ending than met the eye. This is one of those books that is very ambiguous and open to interpretation, and no matter what I think Leslye was trying to say, the next person who reads it will find a completely different meaning.
I'm looking forward to reading more of Leslye's writing in the future, because she has a beautiful voice and a real skill with crafting her sentences and choosing beautiful vocabulary. However, I suggest you read '...Ava Lavender' for yourself to work out how you feel about it. I've never read another book like it before, I've left it two days after finishing it to write this review, and I still have nothing concrete that I can say. Not many books throw me off like this, so it's certainly a special one.

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