A few facts before I start the review of this book:
- It is easily my favourite book of the year…..easily.
- It is possibly my favourite book ever (bold statement).
- It made me cry, twice, and I’m not a crying kinda gal.
- I only picked it up because I was seeing it everywhere on social media and I hate to miss out.
- I am SO glad I did…….
So, with all of the above said, it doesn’t take Columbo to deduce my feelings on this book. I could just say read it NOW! And leave the review there but that would be doing the book a disservice so I’ll try and put into words my thoughts and feelings on it.
This novel tells the story of Cyril Avery, a young boy living in Ireland post Second World War, who has been adopted by Maude and Charles Avery after his real mother, 16 year old Catherine Goggins was denounced from her church, disowned by her parents and cast out of her village in rural Ireland.
The story of Cyril’s life is told over a 70+ years span in 7 year increments. Starting from his dramatic birth and subsequent adoption by Maude and Charles who are far from doting parents. They are fairly well off and provide well for Cyril but are quite cold and detached emotionally, quite often reiterating to Cyril that he’s ‘not a real Avery’. It is when Cyril is 7 years old that he meets Julian Woodbead (also 7) and develops a close friendship. We then follow both boys through boarding school, teenage life and various scrapes and adventures in their adult years.
Cyril always struggles to find out where he fits in, trying to develop his own identity in the shadow of gregarious, popular, outspoken Julian.
This book is so beautifully, skilfully written. Each and every character, whether they are a main influence in Cyril’s life and are present throughout the whole story or whether they are a ‘bit part’, just a small character who’s around for a few paragraphs, they are all so full of life and believable. Some are ghastly in an amusing way and some are just downright nasty. Some are beautiful people with kind souls who you want to just keep close to your heart.
This book is so funny, such gentle, genuine humour. But as I said at the start, it also takes you on an emotional rollercoaster of a journey and made me cry at two particularly poignant points. I can count on one hand the number of books that have made me cry. I’m an ice queen people! But this book destroyed me! (In a good way, if that’s possible).
When people really enjoy a book they quite often say that they didn’t want it to end and in this case I genuinely didn’t. I wasn’t quite ready to let Cyril go from my life.
You really feel as if you are making the journey with Cyril. Living his life with him through the various highs and lows and heartbreaks and joys. As I mentioned, the story is told in 7 year increments and I was always a little reluctant to move on to the next chapter in Cyril’s life, just incase I didn’t connect with it as much as the previous one but I found that I was always quickly absorbed in the new chunk of his life and swept away again.
It would be all to easy to talk too much about this book and let slip some spoilers. So what I will say is that it deals with such topics as loneliness, grief, friendship, belonging, relationships, love and prejudice.
I hate to use too many cliches but this book at times had me stopping, looking up on the bus and really wanting to just talk to somebody about what I’d just read. There were sections that were just so perfectly written that they blew me away. There are things which will stick out in my memory forever. There is a chapter called The Great Love Affair that is 3 pages of the most engaging writing I have ever read. In fact I had to go back and read it again.
Be it witty one liners or heartfelt emotional paragraphs this book is as close to perfect as I could ever imagine.
I will be wanging on about it for a long time to come and have even pre-ordered the paperback ahead of its release as the copy I read was a library loan and need to own it for myself.
Beg, steal or borrow a copy of this book. Do whatever you can to get your hands on it (perhaps not the stealing option though).
Bookish Chat xxx
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