I would like to first say thank you to Walker Books Australia for giving me a copy in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Magical realism, lyrical prose, and the pain and passion of human love haunt this hypnotic generational saga.
Foolish love appears to be the Roux family birthright, an ominous forecast for its most recent progeny, Ava Lavender. Ava—in all other ways a normal girl—is born with the wings of a bird. In a quest to understand her peculiar disposition and a growing desire to fit in with her peers, sixteen-year old Ava ventures into the wider world, ill-prepared for what she might discover and naïve to the twisted motives of others. Others like the pious Nathaniel Sorrows, who mistakes Ava for an angel and whose obsession with her grows until the night of the Summer Solstice celebration. That night, the skies open up, rain and feathers fill the air, and Ava’s quest and her family’s saga build to a devastating crescendo. First-time author Leslye Walton has constructed a layered and unforgettable mythology of what it means to be born with hearts that are tragically, exquisitely human.
4.5 stars out of 5.
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender was both strange and beautiful. Ava Lavender is our narrator, but she just isn’t telling you her story, she tells us the story of her mother and her grandmother and her grandmother’s family. The first quarter of the book is where Ava is sharing the story of her grandmother’s family, which is both tragic and violent. The prologue drew me in and this part of the book almost pushed me out. Emilienne is Ava’s grandmother, and it is not until we get deeper into her story that I was drawn in again. Then once we meet Viviane I was hooked and couldn’t put it down.
Its pace may be slow for a lot of readers. It was very literary, and to my surprise, a historical novel. Ava is a teen in the late 50’s which I wasn’t expecting, though I actually liked it more for it. It kind of had a Catherine Cookson feel to it, and as I am a huge Catherine Cookson fan this made me like it more.
Ava is eventually born and in order to protect her, her mother keeps her in the house, but Ava is not content to be confined within four walls; she just wants to be an ordinary girl. She makes friends with her neighbour, Cardigan, who is eager to help her spread her wings, so to speak. Cardigan and Ava become very close and I loved the bond they shared.
This is very much a character driven novel, and all the characters were well rounded and felt very real. They were so vividly described, even the minor characters, that they leapt off the page. Beside the women, Henry was very much a standout for me, as was Gabe. I won’t tell you anything more about them because I don’t want to ruin the beauty of you discovering them for yourself.
The story of Ava Lavender and her family is one of love, and the scars it leaves. It is dark, tragic and violent, and doesn’t shy away from the hard realities of life. Because of this I would very much recommend it to the mature teen, and those on the older end of the spectrum and above. It was lyrical, magical. Beautifully written. It will get under your skin slowly and lodge there. These three women will stay in your mind as haunting as the ghosts that inhabit this story.
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender was nothing like what I expected, it completely surprised me in every way, and I loved it for it. It is apologetically different, a stand out read. Love is very much the enemy in this novel, but it is also the saving grace. Amongst the tragedy is hope, and we are left with a sense that things are going to change for the better for the Lavenders. And when it all ended I found myself wanting more. Ava is so young when we leave her but so old when she is telling her story.
This book has been getting a lot of positive reviews and there has been lots of hype around it and I can see why. I believe it will appeal as much to adults as teens, maybe even more so, and hope it finds the audience it deserves.
It truly is an amazing book.
You can add it to your Goodreads here.