31 Dec 2014

Love makes us such fools: Helene Wecker's The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

Release Date: 27th March 2014
Publisher: Walker Books
Pages: 301
Format: Hardcover | Purchased

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Summary (from GoodReads): 

Foolish love appears to be a Roux family birthright. And for Ava Lavender, a girl born with the wings of a bird, it is an ominous thing to inherit. In her quest to understand her peculiar disposition and a growing desire to join her peers, sixteen-year-old Ava ventures into the wider world. But it is a dangerous world for a naive girl...

My Thoughts: 

I was not expecting to love this book as much as I did. I read it just after I had finished The Golem and the Djinni and was still in that "well what do I do now?" phase I have every time I finish a good book for the first time. Like the title implies, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is both strange and beautiful. It is a story of love in all of its forms. Of familial love. Of maternal love. Of the love between two friends. Of lust. Of lovers who missed their moment. It is a story of loss, of wanting, of desire and obsession. Even though the story has its fantastical moments, there is something about that makes it so real and relatable that I was thinking about it long after I'd finished it.

Despite being the title character, Ava Lavender doesn't show up until about halfway through the book. We are first introduced to Ava's grandmother, Emilienne Roux, and mother, Vivienne. Their stories are every bit as interesting as Ava's. Of course, a 301 page book covering three generations of women means introducing a lot of characters that we don't get to spend a lot of time with - and you would think that they would be underdeveloped or caricatures. Somehow, Walton makes you feel like you know and understand these characters. I've seen a few reviews where Walton's characterisation is compared to Melina Marchetta and I feel that that's an apt comparison. Even if you don't spend a lot of time with a character, you're given enough of their story to both know the character and want to know more about them (from the very moment I was introduced to Quintana in Froi of the Exiles I was simultaneously wanting to know more about her and having my heart hurt because of what I knew about her).

And this book did make my heart hurt, because while I was reading, I was watching the characters make these foolish mistakes and getting hurt by it (especially Vivienne). These characters... they make mistakes, they wonder how things would've been if things had turned out differently, and I definitely felt everything from joy to frustration to horror as I was pulled along the journey of the Roux/Lavender women. But as the back of my book tells me, "love makes us such fools," and it wouldn't have been such a beautiful story filled with whimsy and raw emotion if it didn't.

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