Tuesday, 14 October 2014
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is an unusual book that is hard to describe. The thing I enjoyed most about it was the quirky tone and narrative voice. Walton's world just hints at the magical, and at the fairy tale, a world in which wings, ghosts, children with different coloured eyes, and cakes infused with the feelings of the baker, are possible. I love books with atmospheres like this - our normal world painted in vivid technicolour. Ava Lavender is as a result a very visual book, and one that would be great turned into a film.
I mentioned above that this story is a bit like a fairy tale, and therefore there is a darker side lurking underneath the surface. Emilienne and Viviane (Ava's mother and grandmother) are troubled by love in rather ordinary ways, but Ava really experiences the darker side of obsessive love. The later sections of the novel deal with brutal events, which seem even harsher set against the imaginative setting. I found what happened to Ava to be problematic, not because I don't think violence against women shouldn't be written about, but because there was a glamour to the scene. Ava's sorrows are beautiful, it's all in the title, and her attack and it's consequences are written about in the same, fairytale, beautiful-tragic way. When really it's just tragic and there are fewer things in life that would feel less beautiful. I'm sure this was completely unintentional, but it still bothered me.
I found that I connected with Emilienne and Viviane better than Ava herself, as Ava remained a bit of a mystery throughout the novel. I particularly connected with Viviane's story, her years spent pining after a lost love that didn't really turn out to be a love after all. Including all three women in the narrative was definitely a good decision.
On the whole, I did enjoy The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. The writing style and the magical elements worked fantastically together, and it was a pleasure to pick up. Fans of Sarah Addison Allen will enjoy this one.
Source: From the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.
Score: 3.5 out of 5