What’s it all about?:
Cornwall, 1947. Marvellous Ways is a ninety-year-old woman who’s lived alone in a remote creek for nearly all her life. Recently she’s taken to spending her days sitting on the steps of her caravan with a pair of binoculars. She’s waiting for something – she’s not sure what, but she’ll know it when she sees it. Freddy Drake is a young soldier left reeling by the war. He’s agreed to fulfil a dying friend’s last wish and hand-deliver a letter to the boy’s father in Cornwall. But Freddy’s journey doesn’t go to plan, and sees him literally wash up in Marvellous’ creek, broken in body and spirit. When Marvellous comes to his aid, an unlikely friendship grows between the two. Can Freddy give Marvellous what she needs to say goodbye to the world, and can she give him what he needs to go on?
What did I think?:
A Year Of Marvellous Ways is on the Richard and Judy Spring Book Club list this year and I think I had quite high expectations for it after enjoying Sarah’s previous novel, When God Was A Rabbit. Unfortunately, I’m quite sad to say that I was bitterly disappointed, it had oodles of potential and a really promising plot line but for some reason I just didn’t get it. Magical realism is a genre that I lap up and usually crave more of but dare I say this novel was too whimsical and in parts, very confusing even for me!
Its the 1940’s, post World War II and the “Marvellous Ways” of the story is an eccentric and fascinating old woman who at ninety years ago still lives on her own in a caravan by a creek in Cornwall, swims naked on a daily basis, believes she is the daughter of a mermaid and is famed locally for her healing abilities and potions. When we first meet Marvellous she appears to be on edge, staring out at the sea, certain that there is someone important that will visit her, one last person that she has to help before she dies.
The person who does turn up on her doorstep is Freddy Drake, a soldier fresh from his traumatic World War II experiences and completely broken and scarred from what he has seen during the war and from losing his first real love. Marvellous manages to heal both his body and mind by sharing some stories of the three great loves in her own life and helping Freddy piece together the mystery of who he is as a person. As these two mysterious and intriguing characters cement an unlikely yet important friendship it appears that there are wounds to be healed on both sides of the relationship.
There are so many positives about this book and that’s why I’m certain a lot of people would really enjoy it. Sarah Winman’s writing is beautiful and so poetic and for that reason I would usually give the novel a higher rating than I have, but I feel I have to be honest with myself about my enjoyment of the story. The characters were intriguing and I did fall in love a little bit with Marvellous Ways and Freddy Drake but everything just seemed so disjointed and a lot of the time I felt I couldn’t follow the thread of the plot properly. By the end I just became frustrated and kind of like – “What just happened?” I’m a huge lover of literary fiction normally, books that jump around in time and as I mentioned before, books with a bit of a magical edge but this novel just didn’t sit right with me. I don’t want to put anyone off as I know there are fans of the genre out there who will “get” it and I’d love to know your thoughts!
Would I recommend it?
Star rating (out of 5):