Tuesday 14 October 2014

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

Ava Lavender is the daughter of a woman scorned in love and the granddaughter of a woman haunted by the ghosts of her past.  She also happens to have wings, which she was born with.  In The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, Ava traces the history of the women in her family, and the ways in which love in all its forms has caused them pain.  Their stories lead naturally on to her own, as her wings make her the focal point of a dangerous obsession.

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is an unusual book that is hard to describe.  The thing I enjoyed most about it was the quirky tone and narrative voice.  Walton's world just hints at the magical, and at the fairy tale, a world in which wings, ghosts, children with different coloured eyes, and cakes infused with the feelings of the baker, are possible.  I love books with atmospheres like this - our normal world painted in vivid technicolour.  Ava Lavender is as a result a very visual book, and one that would be great turned into a film.

I mentioned above that this story is a bit like a fairy tale, and therefore there is a darker side lurking underneath the surface.  Emilienne and Viviane (Ava's mother and grandmother) are troubled by love in rather ordinary ways, but Ava really experiences the darker side of obsessive love.  The later sections of the novel deal with brutal events, which seem even harsher set against the imaginative setting. I found what happened to Ava to be problematic, not because I don't think violence against women shouldn't be written about, but because there was a glamour to the scene.  Ava's sorrows are beautiful, it's all in the title, and her attack and it's consequences are written about in the same, fairytale, beautiful-tragic way.  When really it's just tragic and there are fewer things in life that would feel less beautiful.  I'm sure this was completely unintentional, but it still bothered me.

I found that I connected with Emilienne and Viviane better than Ava herself, as Ava remained a bit of a mystery throughout the novel.  I particularly connected with Viviane's story, her years spent pining after a lost love that didn't really turn out to be a love after all.  Including all three women in the narrative was definitely a good decision.

On the whole, I did enjoy The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender.  The writing style and the magical elements worked fantastically together, and it was a pleasure to pick up.  Fans of Sarah Addison Allen will enjoy this one.

Source: From the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.
Published: 2014
Score: 3.5 out of 5


  1. I love Sarah Addison Allen's novels so I'm going to have to give this one a try.

    Thanks for the review!

  2. This book is so magical and sorrowful at the same time - I didn't know what to make of it really. The title made me think she'd focus on Ava more, but perhaps it could have hinted at all three of the Lavender ladies, and I really did enjoy reading their stories linking into one another.
    I don't know if I agree entirely about the horrible thing happening to Ava - it was quite repulsive, despite the tone it was conveyed in, but I can see what you mean with it being depicted as this grand tragedy. It's such a mystifying book, though. It's been months since I read it and I still don't know what to make of it.

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  4. I can see why you are not sure how to rate this one if you liked the side characters but not the main one. I admit that just the cover would be enough for me to pick it up - so pretty!

  5. Honestly, I knew nothing about this book before I opened the cover. Even after reading the synopsis, I couldn't tell you what it was about. I had no clue why I wanted to read it so badly, but I did. So, I filled out a purchase request at the library, and when it came in--slightly before the release date--I had to sneak a peek. And I almost couldn't put it down.

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