The Strange and Beautiful Sorrow of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
Genre: Fairytale (?), Historical (?) Fantasy (?) How the heck do you classify this??
Published by: Walker Books
Format: Library Book
I’ve had my eye on this book for a while for two reasons:
a.) the beautiful cover, and
b.) the beautiful (and intriguing) title.
After seeing the reviews on Goodreads, the decision was made. I would read this book immediately. When I started reading, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. The book is like an odd mixture of Chocolat by Joanne Harris (for all the generations of women and mother-daughter relationships) and Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (for the creepy, I-don’t-know-if-I-like-it vibe!) It’s also got some fairytale elements to it, but all together, it’s a hard one to pin down and I loved it…I think.
P L O T
At the beginning of the book, there’s a letter from Ava Lavender in her seventies, telling you that the book is going to be about all the females of her family, from her great-grandmother to herself. So, this isn’t just the strange and beautiful sorrows of Ava Lavender, but of all the Lavender ladies. It’s four books in one and although it’s not what I signed up for, I was invested in each tale, and how each woman effected her daughter.
Ava is born with wings. Her mother runs a haunted bakery. Her grandmother’s siblings all died and whisper to her from beyond the grave, and her great-grandmother became so lonely, she turned into a pile of dust.
Yes. It’s all weird. It’s all wonderful, and takes some getting used to.
W R I T I N G
I’ve never really read anything in the young adult market like this. The one comparable writing style I have is that of Anne Tyler, and even then I’ve only read her book A Spool Of Blue Thread that followed a family and gave anecdotes about their lives.
It was like a fairy tale.
There’s not a lot of dialogue. Most of the book is just story telling, explaining the lives of the Lavenders, and all the sorrows that have befallen them. Sometimes it’s matter-of-fact and other times, it’s like an angel herself was crafting the prose. I loved the style, and how intoxicating it was, like when I picked up the book, I knew the words would suck me in.
C H A R A C T E R S
Obviously, there are a lot of characters, but don’t worry about keeping track. (There’s a family tree at the beginning.) Because a lot of terrible things have happened to them, sometimes I thought the women were too similar. Where the Lavenders were the same, the people around them were different. No matter how minor a character was, you got to know them, whether it was on what day they did their laundry, or what their favourite type of bread was. A little over the top, and sometimes the tangents would be at right angles from the storyline, but I didn’t mind. The characters, big or small, were vibrant.
I can’t even pick a favourite.
V E R D I C T
With this book, I think it’s important to go in to it not knowing much. That way, you can be surprised by what it is and by what it isn’t. Expect fairy tale vibes and memoir moments, but know that once you read it, you’ll probably never read another book like it again. 4 stars to Ava Lavender. I hope she spreads her wings.