The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

The third book of our beloved The Order of Fiction Book Club was The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. For both of us this jewel of a book became one of our yearly favourites and we actually listened to it on audio – the narrator is brilliant and her reading is magical. This book falls under the magical realism category and is perfect for fans of fantasy as well. Beware though of the trigger – rape and abuse. This is on one hand a major spoiler but as a firm believer in trigger warnings, this had to be said. The writing of the book is extremely beautiful and lyrical so the story reads as a modern day fairytale. Samanta and I decided to talk about two things with regards to the book.

The first is our favourite character and to me that was Viviene. She was the middle generation of the women in this book and I think I identified with her the most because she experienced depression and was unable to leave her home for a while. And the tragic love story that she had to endure broke my heart and that just made me love her even more. Her continuing story with Gabe was so bitter-sweet and I kept rooting for them to finally be together because Gabe was such a good person, so very kind and gentle. I did love the ending A LOT and I also loved Viviene’s character development, how she went from being hopelessly in love with that asshole Jack to finally getting over him and realising that true love was actually always there, waiting for her just a couple of steps away.

The second thing we talked about was the difference between plot driven stories and character driven narrative. This book was mostly character driven despite also being plot oriented but mostly it concentrated on the women of the family. For me this style of writing is my favourite. I don’t particularly like plot driven stories because I do care primarily about the characters and what drives them, what makes them tick. Also I value beautiful writing styles and this book definitely has that. The writing is absolutely stunning, mesmerising and enchanting. The characters were fleshed out so vividly, it really felt like we knew them, like they were our friends. And I think that’s what good writing is all about.

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Your Soul is a River by Nikita Gill

Hello, bookish people! It’s been a while, I know, but I’ve been super buys with uni and exams. I’m done with all that for now so you know what that means – bring on the books! 😀 My bookish friend Samanta (https://samyinbookworld.wordpress.com/) chose last month’s book for our book club and so we read a poetry collection called Your Soul is a River by Nikita Gill. While she loved the book, I found it to be too simplistic, Rupi Kaur-like and so I only gave it 3 out of 5 stars. There were some poems however, which I really liked and this was my favourite.

 

OCEAN PEOPLE

Some people grow entire oceans

inside themselves instead of hearts.

It’s  why they have more love to

give than anyone can ever return.

It’s why they awaken sometimes

to heartache and tear soaked pillows.

Sometimes it is a blessing to love something

so much more than you love yourself.

Sometimes it is a curse to love anything

so much more  than you love yourself.

What I love most about this poem is how it conveys the utter agony of being an overly emphatic, sensitive person. This is so me! I cry at commercials with cute kittens in them and it takes me a long time to get over a book hangover. I often wonder what it would be like to just feel flat all the time. To be emotionally stable. It feels like it would be so much easier to deal with general life stuff but at the same time it also feels so sad, to not be excited about your favourite books and obsessed with stories or TV series. There is a thin line and when you can walk properly on it, it means you get to enjoy life so much more. You just have to remind yourself not to step over into the moody parts.

Moving on from my favourite poem from this collection, Samanta and I chose another poem together which we both liked and we ended up choosing this one.

 

THIS BRUISED SKIN

I

To be fully human

fully kind and true

is full of bruising.

Because

that is how things

become soft.

II

What you have

hidden inside

your skin.

It is more precious

than diamonds

or gold.

 

This poem represents something completely different to me than it does to Samanta. What I see is the daily struggle of someone who suffers from mental illness. While our scars may not (always) appear on our physical bodies, we do wear them on the insides of our skin. And although it is pure hell sometimes, it also makes you a kinder and softer person. Someone who understands and doesn’t judge. And kindness is such an underestimated quality nowadays.

Despite the fact I didn’t love this book, there are some pretty good poems in it. I just don’t like this modern, tumblr inspired poetry, because too often it seems like a random sentence broken down into verse. And there is nothing wrong with that but at least try making it original and meaningful. I have yet to find a poetry collection that will inspire and move me (I’m counting on Jen Campbell’s Girl Aquarium).

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (part 2)

As promised, the second part of our book discussion. 🙂

7. Do you agree with Isola that “reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones”?      

I sure do! It often happens that when I read a book I really, really love, I can’t pick up a new one for a while. This also happened with this novel in fact. I was still thinking about the characters and living in Guernsey and I just couldn’t leave it and face the real world. And all the books I’ve read since, have been somewhat lacking. It’s gotten better now because a whole month has passed since I finished the book. But I do agree that reading great books, those that change you and stay with you, ruin you for the average story lines and you may even grow angry and impatient and even take it out on some harmless book from that decent authors that you used to kind of liked but now can’t bring yourself to even look at their books. I think this is the same with everything in life, for example great friendships ruin you for mere acquaintances because once you find that one person with whom you can talk effortlessly about anything, it’s hard to be patient and deal with boring people.

8. Guernsey book club brought different people together. Do you believe that books truly have the power to bring people together and in so help create a community?

Books are such a unique kind of art, they whisper different things to different people. A book is always being remade by the reader and it’s never the same for two people. So yes, I do agree that books have that magical quality about them that bring people together. I have a friend whose personality clashes with mine but one time, we both loved the same book and kept talking about it for hours even though we normally just chat about silly things!

9. There were many themes in the novel- war, love, books, and friendship to name a few. Which theme impacted you the most?

Friendship and the courage to stand up for what is right. Elizabeth’s bravery made such an impact on me and I felt crushed when I found out what happened to her and to Kit’s father. They seemed such good people and they should get their own happy ending but wars take all the happiness away and throw it in the ocean. What I found most endearing was how the book club took care of Kit without questioning what to do with her. They all shared their love and kindness with the child and that to me shows that love endures and friendships can extend even beyond one’s lifetime. I also loved the notion of books as this universal forces of friendship and bonding and how they read to keep boredom away and shared stories with each other in order to make their lives more tolerable.

 10. Through researching material for her book, Juliet got first-hand accounts of many Guernsey’s residence memories of the Occupation. Which memories or stories made an impact on you? Which one was the most memorable?

The most memorable were the terrible stories of Guernsey’s prisoners. How they were left to death, how they roamed the island searching for food. How they were basically treated like meat because they were expendable. What a horrific notion. I also took to heart the stories of evacuated children. I cannot even imagine how terrible it must’ve been, to not see your children or grandchildren for several years and to not know if they were all right. But what made me feel better is to hear the stories of German soldiers who shared their medicines with worried mothers, desperately trying to save their children. This showed such compassion and universal love, it made the unbearable war stories slightly less painful.

 

 

 

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (part 1)

My reading buddy @samyinbookworld (https://samyinbookworld.wordpress.com/) and I have started our very own book club! We named it “The Order of Fiction” book club thanks to our mutual love for Harry Potter. Each month we will be reading one book and then have a discussion about it. The first book we chose was Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and we both ADORED it and even shed some tears. We cannot wait for the film to come out so we can see how true it will stay to the book. I’ve probably watched the trailer more times than I’d cared to admit but I just love this story and these characters so much. Be sure to subscribe to both of our blogs to receive notifications on our next book.

  1. Why did you even decide to pick up this book?

There are two reasons; the first is that I saw the movie trailer and thought it was fantastic, the story seemed so compelling and I loved the idea behind the film, the fact that books saved a group of people who suffered under the German occupation. Just the overall love of reading is what drew me in. The second reason is that my favourite booktuber Jen Campbell talked about the book and how she found it just absolutely stunning and that was that final cherry on top – I immediately went to the library and started reading it. I think I read like a third of the book on that evening, it was just that good.

  1. What was it like to read a novel composed entirely of letters? What do letters offer that no other form of writing (not even emails) can convey? What is the role of handwritten letters today?

This wasn’t the first novel written in letters that I’ve read – I also read Love, Rosie by Cecilia Ahern and Dangerous Liaisons by Choderlos de Laclos. I believe that novels written in letters offer an in-depth view into the souls and personalities of each character. Writing is such a personal act, it’s just you and that blank sheet of paper and it is completely different to writing emails or texting. It is a much more intimate gesture, to send someone a handwritten letter. So when you receive a letter and read it, it’s like you’re holding a piece of that person’s soul in your hands, an imprint of the person they were in that moment of writing. Unfortunately, letter writing lost its charm and very few people still exchange letters today. I myself am quite old-fashioned when it comes to this and I still exchange letters with friends I don’t see often. Receiving a handwritten letters for me is one of the greatest pleasures in life.

  1. Dawsey first wrote to Juliet because books, on Charles Lamb or otherwise, were so difficult to obtain on Guernsey in the aftermath of the war. What differences did you note between bookselling in the novel and bookselling in your world? What makes book lovers unique, across all generations?

There is one obvious difference and that is the shear availability of books. Nowadays almost everything is available to purchase by simply clicking on a few buttons and I think we can’t even imagine what it’s like to not be able to buy something. In the book, Dawsey received a letter from a bookseller who tried to find him a copy of a book and that to me sounds completely bizarre. All I have to do to buy a book today is go on book depository or amazon and there it is. But the personal touch gets lost in this process. I still prefer going to an actual bookshop to purchase books but the problem is that our local bookstores’ offer is very limited regarding books in English so often I just buy the books I want online.

I believe that what makes book lovers unique is their ability to see the myriad of stories which surround us. A reader lives a thousand lives and we get to experience so much: historical eras which are far away in the past, magical worlds with laws completely different to ours, and we can even glimpse into a potentially real version of the future. This ability to believe and to hold different stories, different possibilities in our mind are what separates a reader from a non-reader. The fact that we believe things can be different. Books also cause an irreparable damage if you ask me, because we are never quite satisfied with the world in which we are forced to live.

  1. Discuss the poets, novelists, biographers and other writers who capture the hearts of the members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. What does a reader’s taste in books say about his or her personality?

This can be a tricky question to answer. On one hand I don’t believe that someone’s taste determines their personality but it can show us some of the things that that person values and cherishes the most. For example those who love fantasy novels (myself included) tent to be more creative and open-minded. For me this also means that I can get melancholic because I find our lives to be quite boring when I compare them with books. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – thing would be so much easier and so much better if I were a witch. For example readers who “enjoy” just the classics and frown upon YA set my teeth on edge. Each genre offers so much variety, from shitty books which were probably written in a month and never edited to really terrific novels that crush your heart and leave you to pick up the pieces. And I really hate it when people, who often don’t even read YA, trash talk about it and make me feel inferior because of my reading tastes. Live and let live – the same can be said for books. Read what you love and don’t criticize other people’s tastes. For me, reading widely across different genres is the mark of true intelligence and curiosity.

  1. Juliet rejects marriage proposals from a man who is a stereotypical “great catch.” How would you have handled Juliet’s romantic entanglement? What truly makes someone a “great catch”?

I would most probably have acted the same. While Mark Reynolds sounded perfect on paper, in reality he got on my nerves A LOT. He was so full of himself and acted as though the war never happened and he just went on with his life but the war changed everything and everyone. Dawsey was such a better match for Juliet, he was kind and patient and I just loved his relationship with Kit. I’d like to think I would’ve done the same as Juliet though I would probably be less subtle about it and grew impatient and just started yelling at the poor man. For me, a “great catch” is such a constructed idea, it is completely bonkers. Yes, we all have our fantasies and ideal partners but in reality what matters the most is that you respect and love each other and have enough patience to stick through it even when the honeymoon phase is over. For me, a great catch is someone who is kind and respectful, someone who talks about a problem when they are faced with it and someone who is loyal to the bone and willing to put in that extra effort to make a relationship work.

  1. Which of the members of the Society is your favourite?

My favourite is probably Dawsey, I loved reading his letters. He just seemed to be such a rock solid kind of person, someone who stands firmly on the ground and is always there for you when you need him. My favourite moment of his was when the awful lady from the church came to his house and found him reading when he was supposed to be working. That pretty much sums up my life. And I also found it terribly endearing how kind he was with Kit and how she never ever bothered him. He just showered her with love but in his own quiet, unobtrusive way.