Thoughts on Where The Crawdads Sing
Autumn leaves don't fall, they fly. They take their time and wander on this their only chance to soar (Where The Crawdads Sing: Delia Owens).
**Trigger warnings: Child abuse, sexual abuse, domestic violence, social isolation and bullying.**
The story follows Kya, a child who is abandoned by her whole family to survive in the marsh lands of the North Carolina coast. She is forced to survive with only the support of a few and the animals and weather within the environment. She lives this life pretty much undisturbed until the murder of a member of the community who has links with Kya. Once this event happens her life is upturned as the majority of the town believes she is responsible.
What others have said
"A painfully beautiful first novel that is at once a murder mystery, a coming-of-age narrative and a celebration of nature . . . Owens here surveys the desolate marshlands of the North Carolina coast through the eyes of an abandoned child. And in her isolation that child makes us open our own eyes to the secret wonders-and dangers-of her private world" -- New York Times Book Review
"For a debut the prose is impressively accomplished. . . A Hollywood film seems inevitable. Yet it will be hard to match on screen the delicacy of Owens's exploration of the natural world. Kya and her magical little world are a rare achievement" --The Times
"Owens combines high tension with precise detail about how people dress, sound, live and eat - the case studies in her book are both human and natural . . . Surprise bestsellers are often works that chime with the times. Though set in the 1950s and 60s, Where the Crawdads Sing is, in its treatment of racial and social division and the fragile complexities of nature, obviously relevant to contemporary politics and ecology. But these themes will reach a huge audience though the writer's old-fashioned talents for compelling character, plotting and landscape description -- The Guardian.
What did I think?
So I read the reviews and I was excited. Every review I have read has been really enthusiastic, saying what a work of art this was and how it stays with you when you finish reading and I am left with the feeling of meh!! It was alright, maybe because it had been so built up, it was never going to meet my expectations but it didn't even come close.
That is not to say I hated it. Lets start with the good things, I thought Delia Owen's use of language in her descriptions were excellent. I had a really clear picture in my imagination of what was going on, and for the majority of the characters I had a very clear picture of who they were in my head. I also liked the writing style, I liked how it went forwards and backwards in time and enjoyed the way the story developed in this format. I actually think this may be one of those books that translates into film really well - it is quite cinematic.
Now the bits that I found troubling. There is a twist at the end. I was expecting a twist and so I started pondering what it could have been and actually the ones I thought of, I think would have been better than the one that actually happened. I just found it disappointing and although I didn't think of it, I kind of think that was because it was the obvious twist if that makes sense.
In addition, all through this book I felt uncomfortable. Now that's OK and actually I quite like that. I am happy to sit in my discomfort. Throughout the book, my social worker senses were twitching with the theme of child abandonment etc, they were obviously going to be triggered. But what made me more uncomfortable was the depiction of people of colour in the book. I really felt that all the characters who are of colour were placed into the stereotype that is really present for them in the deep south in the 1950s and 1960s which was a real shame, this could have been an opportunity to challenge this without even changing the story-line.
The final issue I had was with Kya as a character. Now don't get me wrong, I really liked her. I was saddened by the things that happened to her and was rooting for her throughout. However, what I felt confused by the descriptions of her. In my head she was visualised as a person of colour, however, it felt like towards the end a U-turn was done and she became a blonde white person and I felt let down. I had welcomed there being a protagonist in a book who was not blonde and white (and I say this as a blonde white female). Part of me wonders whether this was because of where the story went. I am aware that I am not the only person who has thought this, but have also seen the posts from other expressing disbelief that anyone thought this as Delia Owens makes it obvious that she is white, but I have to admit I totally missed that!
Star rating: 3* (out of 5)
Will I read it again?: Unlikely, I just didn't think it was that great. I would definitely see the movie though.