A Year of Marvellous Ways is the story of the improbably-named Marvellous Ways, a ninety-year-old hermit who lives in a gypsy caravan by a creek in Cornwall. She’s kind of a wise woman, herbal healer type, who gathers oysters and crabs for her dinner and still bathes in the river every day. Into her life stumbles Freddy Drake, a young soldier still suffering the effects of the Second World War and a friendship grows between them.
This book is written in a lyrical, poetic way and while I don’t mind a bit of drifty, airy prose, here it was far too much and at times I struggled to understand what was going on and was constantly having to re-read pages. This completely pulled me out of the story and made it a chore to read. Also, bizarrely, the author decided not to use speech marks when people were speaking. No idea why this should be, but it made dialogue really hard to read, like this:
Look who’s come back, said Mrs Hard, chewing on her words as if they were a bridle.
So the person chewing on their words could either be Mrs Hard or the person she’s talking about. Why do authors do this? It’s like Winman is deliberately trying to alienate her readers.
Marvellous was an okay character. She was very strong and independent, which I liked, but I never really felt like I knew her. I don’t know, maybe this was what the author intended. All I can say is when I don’t feel like I know a character it makes it hard for me to care about them.
Drake was weak and boring at the beginning. He grew a bit stronger as the story progressed, but he was still boring.
The plot centred around how Marvellous and Drake formed a friendship and kind of saved each other. There was a lot of back story surrounding Marvellous’s unusual life, which was fairly interesting, but the parts of the plot set in the current day (1947) were flat and uninteresting.
I always rate books on how much I personally enjoyed them as opposed to how ‘good’ I think they are and while I think some people might love this book, I’m being generous in giving this two stars, because it really didn’t float my boat.