June 25, 2015

A Year of Marvellous Ways. Sarah Winman

book cover
A Year of Marvellous Ways
Sarah Winman
Published: Tinder Press
Date: 23rd June 2015
Format: Paperback
Pages: 312
Genre: Fiction
Source: Thanks to Hachette NZ
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Cornwall, 1947. Marvellous Ways is eighty-nine years old and has lived alone in a remote Cornish creek for nearly all her life. Lately she's taken to spending her days sitting by the river with a telescope. She's waiting for something - she's not sure what, but she'll know it when she sees it.

Drake is a young soldier left reeling by the Second World War.  When his promise to fulfil a dying man's last wish sees him wash up on Marvellous' creek, broken in body and spirit, the old woman comes to his aid.
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A Year of Marvellous Ways is the story of Marvellous - her life and loves and Drake who arrives at her caravan by the sea in Cornwall, England.  It is an unusual book and it took me awhile to acclimatise to it.  I am used to speeding through a book! It takes a little while to get into the rhythm of reading it, I found it has to be read slowly - no skipping or I just might miss something. 

The language is poetical, sometimes evocative of the beauty of nature and at others of the stark ordinary workings of the human body. Here and there is a play on words - sometimes I chuckled and reread as I enjoyed the little surprises tucked away in various corners. Even the title of the book surprises! Before I had read the synopsis of this book I had no idea Marvellous Ways was the name of a person. 

Marvellous is old, wise, and knows how to be herself and not bend to others rumours and opinions or actions.  She is a healer, a caring person and a kind of doctor of the soul and spirit   She has had three loves in her life, all important with the last being the longest.  She doesn't worry what the neighbours think and sometimes her actions were shocking although I think that was part of being herself rather than setting out to be shocking. I liked her very much.

Drake a soldier scarred by war and what he has witnessed of the hard realities of men's despicable actions,  has loved and lost, and when he arrives on Marvellous' doorstep is very broken.  He never knew his father and lost his mother early in life.  As time goes by he heals with good companionship, story telling and decent helpings of sloe gin.  

There is horror and heartbreak, life and death, love and loss, war and peace, the healing of sharing and telling your story, the importance of the sea and nature, and the importance of being needed in this novel.  Marvellous is coming to the end of her life, Drake must learn to go on and be at peace. The ordinary mingles with the magical, often in dreams and sometimes in the daily living.

The novel speaks of integration for both Marvellous and Drake as they share with each other their lives and are heard. They are a blessing and gift for each other, and while the final surprise was no surprise it was still satisfying.

I love the cover of this book, the teal blue is perfect, the orange firefly look, I believe ties in with the orange starfish often mentioned in the novel and it has a beautiful feel. Makes having a paper book in your hand a sensory experience. Covers matter!

4 stars


  1. Yeah, this sounds pretty great. I love the promise of some real emotional pulls. Thank you for your review.
    It is a lovely cover too, BTW.

  2. You had me at beautiful language

  3. I just love everything you said about that book, the poetry, the surprises and Marvellous herself. That cover already caught my eye in your Sunday post because it looks so peaceful, so apeasing :) Great review !

  4. What a great review! I am going to put this on my to read list! I love your blog design!

  5. It sounds like there is a lot of depth to this story. It is a lovely cover. This sounds like a great read. Thanks for your terrific review Kathryn.

  6. Covers are everything! Well maybe not everything but they definitely are a big part of the whole reading experience.
    Love that Cornwall 1940s setting. Going to keep an eye out for this one.

  7. I think I will try this when I have time to sit and think while I read. It sounds really thoughtful.


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