The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
Published in 2014 by Walker Books
My copy: Library
Foolish love appears to be a Roux family birthright. And for Ava Lavender, a girl born with the wings of a bird, it is an ominous thing to inherit. In her quest to understand her peculiar disposition and a growing desire to join her peers, Ava ventures into the wider world. But it is a dangerous world for a naive girl – a world which may view her as girl or angel. On the night of the summer solstice celebration, the skies open up, rain and feathers fill the air and Ava’s journey and her family’s saga reaches 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.
This book is narrated by Ava Lavender, and tells the story not just of her own extraordinary life, but also that of her grandmother and mother before her. We get right under the skin of all three characters and find out a lot about their strange lives and those they have loved – and lost.
We find out at the very start of this novel that Ava was born with a pair of wings, so we know straight off this isn’t going to be any ordinary read! And this is an extremely unusual book, with an odd array of characters and a few strange events taking place. But despite being quite magical at times, there is a strong thread of reality at its core, with the three generations of women we follow living often ordinary lives and experiencing everyday things – Ava’s grandmother works all day in her own bakery, while all the characters experience love – sometimes unrequited.
The mix of magic and reality in this novel works well for me, as too much crazy stuff would have put me off, but the balance here is just right and at times you forget you are reading about anything other than ordinary people. The characters are very human and we learn to really empathise with them as we find out about their difficult lives.
This is a very lovely book and although I believe it is marketed as young adult literature, I think it has quite mature themes and I would say it is for the older end of that market, but also very suitable for older readers who don’t mind their books having a sometimes mythical or magical feel to them. It is also violent at times, so maybe not for the squeamish! But I would definitely recommend this to anyone who fancies something a bit different and doesn’t need their literature to be entirely realistic!