What I’ve been reading: November

Sometimes you read something so good it makes you feel inadequate as a writer. Whether it’s a really insightful article, an amazing piece of fiction or a new and original viewpoint on something that you would never have thought of yourself, there’s just something about the turn of phrase, the fluidity of the writing or the clarity of the argument that just makes you think, “I wish I could write like that”.

This is how I feel after reading Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is that I loved so much about this novel. The subject matter is very much along the same vein as things I’ve read before; a statement on human nature, a look into the prejudices and mores that pervade a certain society, an observation on the interconnectedness between us and the natural environment, etc, etc. This book is all of those things, but it’s something more than that. It is beautifully descriptive and heartbreakingly human, even in the “happy” episodes.

I think heartbreaking is one of the key words that comes close to describing how I felt reading this. Kya, the main character, is so compelling and it’s her loneliness that drives the story. It’s an emotion that we’re all familiar with from time to time, but her total isolation, both physical and emotional is so tangible. It’s hard to describe in words unless you’ve read the novel (this is one of those “I wish I could write like Delia Owens” moments).

But even in her loneliness, Kya is such a loving and benevolent presence (even when she’s not) and her relationship with the natural world is magical. She just wants to love and to be loved, and nature provides her this basic human need, even when the humans around her largely do not.

The depictions of the natural world itself are also magical, transporting you to a world that’s almost mystical and fairytale-esque in one sense, but scientific, factual and very real at the same time. This, I guess, is how Kya sees the world. A place of wonder but also a place of order. Somewhere that she can make sense of but can lose herself in. A real life Alice in Wonderland.

In case you didn’t get it by now, I loved this novel; it’s reminded me of why I love literature in the first place. In short, it’s beautiful and I think everyone should read it.

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