Review: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton


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.


I was sent this proof to review from the publishers and the first thing that struck me was the wonderfully poetic title.  It had a haunting tone to it but it also made me turn it over straight away to read the blurb.  

This is a book about the generations of one family and how their relationships with each other and the outside world shapes their lives.  We follow the move from rural France to New York and the siblings difficulties at fitting in with American fast living.  Then onto a new generation as one sibling moves across the country and raises her family and then her grandchildren, one of which is Ava Lavender, of which the book is titled after.  It does appear to be a rather complex storyline but in truth, it flows so beautifully that it reads like a wonderful family saga of love and heart-break.

I adored this book so much that I’ve already been passing my, now battered, copy around my friends and work mates to read.  Each time someone finishes it, they tell me how tragically beautiful it is and then it’s instantly snapped up by another reader.  I felt my heart ebb and wave along with the highs and lows in each characters lives and especially the title character, Ava.  With a family history, that Ava barely knows, I read this story with a heavy heart, knowing with a sense of dread that Ava was likely to see some awfulness in her life like her mother and grandmother did.

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is a very special book indeed.  It’s story and characters will linger with you long after you’ve finished reading it.  The only other book I can think to compare it with is Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, perhaps not in terms of the story but that haunting tone and glorious use of language and wonderful writing style.  Leslye Walton has a magical touch with words and Ava Lavender is her sparkling masterpiece.   

A book that won’t leave you, even after you’ve left it.

Published by Walker Books UK and is available here and bookshops from March 2013

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