The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

To many, I was myth incarnate, the embodiment of a most superb legend, a fairy tale. Some considered me a monster, a mutation. To my great misfortune, I was once mistaken for an angel. To my mother, I was everything. To my father, nothing at all. To my grandmother, I was a daily reminder of loves long lost. But I knew the truth—deep down, I always did.
I was just a girl

Oh my. I am in book love (again, I know, sorry not sorry). People, you need to read The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender and you need to read it right now. I’m not even kidding.

I found it ironic that I should be blessed with wings and yet feel so constrained, so trapped. It was because of my condition, I believe, that I noticed life's ironies a bit more often than the average person. I collected them: how love arrived when you least expected it, how someone who said he didn't want to hurt you eventually would

I knew I wanted to read this book from the moment I first saw it in hardback with its beautiful rose gold embossed cover. ROSE GOLD EMBOSSED. It’s a like a sign from the book gods or something. It’s just so pretty. I was seeing it everywhere too, like it was calling to me, like some kind of siren. Come to me, buy me, read me, love me. I didn’t though, I held off for the paperback, partly to practice my self control but mostly because hardback books whilst always that bit prettier are also rather cumbersome when you like to read in bed. The second it was out in paperback though, it was mine. Then Jen announced it as her choice for the November Weird Things BookClub (which you can get involved with here. We’re reading HDM this month…) and I did a happy dance.

I don’t think there is anything about this book I don’t like. Not a single thing. I love it. I love it like I loved Eleanor and Park last year, like it’s gotten under my skin and made a home there; like it was written somehow for me. I didn’t want it to finish – I kind of felt like I needed to read it slowly, to get fully immersed in the intricate weave of magic and reality and let this love story wash over me. That’s what it is, this book, at its heart. It’s a story of love: familial love and romantic love; lost love and unrequited love; love that’s always just out of reach and love that’s unconditional; love that blinds you and loves that helps you to see;  love that makes your heart sing and love that makes it shatter.

It’s kind of like a fairytale, not a Disney and they all lived happily ever after type of story but a proper fairytale, dark and twisted and beautiful and raw. It’s about impossible love and about loss and heartbreak and the bitter taste of joy. It’s about people turning into birds and ripping out their own hearts and about ghosts that you can never quite get away from.

And it’s about a child, born with a pair of wings.

Fate. As a child, that word was often my only companion. It whispered to me from dark corners during lonely nights. It was the song of the birds in spring and the call of the wind through bare branches on a cold winter afternoon. Fate. Both my anguish and my solace. My escort and my cage.

It’s kind of incredible, the level of originality, the beauty, the agony, the magic, the everything. It’s pretty much everything I want in a book. It’s rich and full and painful and stunningly stunningly lovely. It’s angry and violent, and there is murder and suicide and pain and sex – consensual and otherwise – and sorrow (the title doesn’t lie, about anything) but it’s also lyrical and beautiful and wonderful. Walton’s use of language takes the pain she’s talking about and transforms it into something otherwordly. Her prose is rich and every word feels like it was carefully considered; the whole thing is just full of imagery that makes you feel like you’re there and subtle foreshadowing that has you feeling pulled in and pulled forward.
It made my heart ache in the most wonderful way. Life is painful, it’s just the way it is, and this book makes you feel every single thing that you’re supposed to feel; everything single thing those characters feel gets you right in the chest. It’s glorious.  

The first of many autumn rains smelled smoky, like a doused campsite fire, as if the ground itself had been aflame during those hot summer months. It smelled like burnt piles of collected leaves, the cough of a newly revived chimney, roasted chestnuts, the scent of a man's hands after hours spent in a wood shop.

It’s gorgeous. And I could quote possibly wax lyrical about it for A Long Time. But I’ll stop now, before it gets awkward. (Has it gotten awkward already? Oh God.) In a nutshell, this book is lovely, it’s a blend of impossibility and surety, it’s magical realism at it’s very best and it is a book that you really ought to read.

By this point Viviane Lavender had loved Jack Griffith for twelve years, which was far more than half of her life. If she thought of her love as a commodity and were to, say, eat it, it would fill 4,745 cherry pies. If she were to preserve it, she would need 23,725 glass jars and labels and a basement spanning the length of Pinnacle Lane.

If she were to drink it, she'd drown.