Wednesday 19 March 2014

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender and Doughnut

Two totally different books here but both quite brilliant.

With shades of Douglas Adams, Doughnut is a foray into the life of Theo Bernstein, following him on his timey-wimey inter dimensional journey into YouSpace. Combining theoretical physics with near total insanity this is a wonderfully entertaining read from start to finish. I am particularly fond of the Disney inspired universe that Theo encounters along the way.
Theo's life as a wealthy and respected physicist has collapsed after he misplaced a decimal point and subsequently blew up the Very Very Large Hadron Collider, taking a good chunk of Switzerland with it. Everything looks bleak until his old professor leaves him an odd collection of items in his will and the adventure into other worlds begins.
Tom Holt has created a cast of wonderful characters and dropped them into a weird and wonderful story that is a joy to read. Nothing is what it seems and you are as likely to stumble across a heavily armed cartoon duck as across anything else. Quite magnificent. I can't wait for his next book, The Outsorcerer's Apprentice to come out in July.
Equally wonderful and yet totally different is The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. This is a simply beautiful story with some fantastical elements that combine to give us a lyrical look at the dangers of love. Despite the title this is actually the story of three generations of a family, all of whom have been damaged by love. The writing style, and descriptions of the indulgences of sweet foods, brought to mind the magic of Joanne Harris's Chocolat, as well as The Snow Child. Both of which link magical elements with struggles to be accepted by small minded individuals. 
For some reason this is another book that is being marketed as a Young Adult read, I have to assume that this is due to the age of the titular character. I find it difficult to think of any other reason for this marketing choice. There are some adult themes here, and I don't think that some of the descriptions of love and it's pitfalls are likely to be appreciated until the reader has suffered a fair few of them first hand. I think this is a book that could be returned to at different stages of life, and that will be enjoyed in different ways as you grow. In fact I really don't think I would recommend this as a YA book at all, and would be much happier to see it placed in general fiction alongside books like Chocolat, The Night Circus and The Snow Child.

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