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

April 9, 2014 by Jeann @ Happy Indulgence | 3 stars, Books, Reviews

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton: Weird and wonderfulThe Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
Published by Candlewick Press, Walker Books Australia on March 27, 2014
Source: Publisher
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
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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 naive 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.

It’s hard to describe what exactly this story entails, but the title couldn’t be more fitting. It was a sad, beautiful and strange novel; a unique experience. Told as a generational saga and covering the haunting, lyrical tale of Ava Lavender’s strange life, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender was beautiful, bizarre, shocking and just a little bit weird.

The book is set out in two distinct parts. The first, a generational saga about the history of the Lavender/Roux family and how her great-grandmother, grandma, then mother lived their lives and how she came to be born. This style of story telling didn’t really work with me, due to the information overload and the series of characters we were told about, little which were of consequence to the storyline down the track.

The second part was a bit easier to read and digest, as it told of Ava’s life with wings and her struggle against her mother’s neglect. It tells us of her delinquent twin Henry who speaks in mysterious tongues and the weird things he says was kind of scary and offputting. Henry reminds me of a horror movie character because of this, especially his references to the “Sad Man” and the “red on the floor with feathers”.

What I did like about the story, was the lyrical, beautiful writing. It was simply amazing. The whole concept of magical realism was whimsical, although I would have preferred more explanations into why this girl just sprouted wings and feathers, and why some of her family can predict the future from omens. The French bakery was also a highlight with the descriptions of the desserts that constantly made me hungry.

Near the end of the book, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows caught me offguard with a shocking twist, there are some dark themes of stalking and violence. Did not expect that! There isn’t really a resolution or explanation as to why Ava has wings, which I found frustrating after going through a long book about anything but the answers. Also, the weirdest thing in the book happened out of left field:

He turned and saw me, my wings exposed, and he paled. For reasons even I remain unsure of, I dropped to my knees, raised my chin, and opened my mouth. For a moment he stood unmoving, possibly awestruck by the close proximity of my lips. Then he held up a paper-thin wafer and brought it to my mouth. I reached up and touched it with my tongue….A strange pink fire sparked and jumped from my parted lips.

Wh-what? I had to read that paragraph multiple times because it was completely random.

Overall, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows was a read that I would call quirky and artistic. Not the sort of book that I would understand, but somehow I think that’s missing the point. It’s more about the experience and opening your mind to strange new concepts delivered via some beautiful writing.

Thank you to Walker Books for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Rating: 3 out of 5

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Jeann is an Aussie YA blogger and mum who loves to read and recommend books! You can usually find me fangirling about books on my various social media channels including Twitter @happyindulgence, Instagram and Youtube.

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57 responses to “The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton: Weird and wonderful

    • somewhereinmymemory

      Ha, yeah that's what I want, a reward for loving something. Just like you said, people have different opinions. I'm allowed to state mine too. There's a comment section on this blog for a reason.

  1. What exactly is your problem with this review? Because she gave it 3 horrible stars instead of the glowing 5 it deserves? Just because she didn't like the book as much as you did, that doesn't give you the right to insult her by telling her she doesn't "like to THINK anymore". Have you even read her other reviews? News flash, people have honest opinions and it may or may not be the same as yours.

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    • somewhereinmymemory

      I wasn't specifically talking about her when I said people don't like things that make them think. And I wasn't trying to personally attack her. I guess I was trying to express my frustration with societal trends. There are a lot of brilliant books out there and so many of them are forgotten or never read because people are reading mindless stuff. But everyone does have their own opinions and any reading is better than none. It came out a lot harsher than I meant it to, and it was unfair of me to make sweeping generalizations like that.

  2. I thought the book was whimsical and written beautifully but some of it was just so weird lol! I haven't read that many books like this so I guess it took a bit of getting used to.

  3. This book definitely sounds different. I'm not a big fan of magical realism – like you said, there aren't enough explanations as to HOW something happens, which annoys me. And that quote sounds a bit awkward. However, the supposedly beautiful writing an the gorgeous cover are tempting me. My typical tastes say no, but a tiny part of me wants this book to be an exception. It's a struggle.
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  4. That paragraph you quoted here is *very* bizarre. I have no idea what's happening, maybe the context helps to make sense out of it?? I'm really intrigued by the story though and the magic abilities and stuff. It's a bummer that the book didn't explain why she has wings, but a look into the family's history sounds cool too. I might have a better time with that generational saga part 🙂
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  5. This is actually the first time i've heard of this book. i do enjoy the title, it's sort of beautiful and haunting and it gets me interested in finding out what the book entails but i think that the whole mood of the book is pretty (which i like) but also random? Hmm i'll have to debate whether or not to give them one a chance. Great review!

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  6. This was my first 5-star read of the year! I truly loved it so much. However, I absolutely agree that the wings part was not explained properly, but I kind of just went with it. Magical realism stories really require you to suspend your belief in order to immerse yourself into the story. I went into it with this in mind and really enjoyed the book. I'm glad you liked it overall Jeann! xx
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  7. Wow, this sounds so strange and so beautiful at the same time! I don't think I'd be reading it since I'm not keen on not getting explanations.

    Thanks for a great and honest review, Jeann!
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  8. That paragraph does seem very strange! I like books that are a little bit different, but at the same time, it drives me mad if I don't understand everything or don't get all the answers that I want. However, I've heard such wonderful things about the author's writing, and to hear it from you too really makes me want to give it a try. Lovely review, Jeann!
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  9. Wow this sounds so different and I want to rad it for that alone! I'd probably feel the same at first – info overload usually makes me feel overwhelmed especially if it's done early in a book. Good to know it's mostly only in the first part though. The writing itself also sounds wonderful and I love it when ANY book can shock me with an unexpected twist or turn!! Great review!
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  10. I haven't heard of this book and this might sound crazy but I kinda want to read this. I'm not sure what it is but your review (fabulous as always) has sparked my interest despite your concerns. I'm adding this one to my TBR!!! 😉

  11. Well you were easier on it then I was! (I'm actually starting to think I'm a growing into a bitter old bookworm, actually. XD) I really couldn't get into this at all. I mean, the horror/magical aspects were awesome and I DID love how delicious everything was. Buuuut, there were too many parts were I just stood there going "Whaaaat?" x) I love this review, though! I think you summed a lot of it up really well.
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