“To many, I was myth incarnate, the embodiment of a most superb legend, a fairy tale…”
– Leslye Walton, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender
Welcome to the first book club book for 2015 and what a beautiful start it is! I first saw The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton in a bookshop in a small coastal town last May. I picked it up and bought it purely for the cover. It is absolutely stunning! I am the worst for buying books based on their covers… but that’s another conversation entirely!
Ava Lavender is born into the Roux family, following generations of women unlucky and foolish in love. Ava is no ordinary girl. Born with wings gracing her back she is neither angel nor bird and the story follows Ava as she recounts her childhood as well as retracing the history of her great-grandmother, grandmother and mother in an effort to learn who she is and where she came from.
From the very first line of this book I was hooked and what followed was a lyrical prose telling a strange, beautiful and sorrowful fairy tale-like story. “Love makes us such fools,” is the theme of the story. Each of the women in Ava’s family have suffered at the hands of men through their naivety and willingness to give their hearts away. Walton explores what it is to love and there is a wonderful melancholy that settles over the story as each generation of women lives through their loss and suffers from a love lost.
What I like most about this whimsical tale is the magical thread that is woven throughout. It is always there and yet it never felt over the top or out of place. Magical realism can often be quite jarring as the author attempts to bring an element into the story that shouldn’t be there and yet Walton does this with subtlety and ease. It reminds me a little of The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness. He too has the magical touch when it comes to making the extraordinary appear quite ordinary.
Walton also manages to maintain an air of mystery throughout the book; she never quite answers the questions posed at the beginning of the book and although I would normally find this frustrating, I feel quite satisfied with how the story ended. Did it raise more questions than it answered? Quite possibly but I think it adds to the strangeness and beauty of the book. Walton also manages her villain well, an evangelical stalker with an obsession with Ava. However he also represents the repressed sadness of the women in the story and their inability to heal and move on.
Overall, I loved everything about this book. From the beautiful cover, the feel of the book and the story within, it was an experience reading this book, a pleasure indeed!
Over to you – what did you think?