A Pocketful of Crows by Joanne M. Harris

pocketfulI loved A Pocketful of Crows, it’s a darkly woven fairy tale of love and revenge based on a poem called ‘The Child Ballads’.

Joanne Harris is one of my favourite authors and I must say that this is probably one of my favourite pieces of work by her so far, perhaps not surprising in that I do love a dark fairytale, and I’m also rather partial to anything that Ms Harris writes, but, this piece of work is rather exceptional and I will definitely pick up a copy of the illustrated version once it becomes available.

This is only a fairly short read, well approximately 250 pages or thereabouts, and so I practically devoured it in one day – and then deeply regretted it because I didn’t want the book to end (that’s what rereads are for you know).  It’s beautifully written but more than that it’s evocative, the characters and the woodlands spring to life off the page, there’s a strange feeling of whimsy but the author has brought into focus that sense of menace and darkness that is the root of many fairytales and yet is so often lost in the pursuit of sugary sweetness.

The plot basically revolves around love.  The main character, a wild young girl, one of the travelling/free folk who lives in the forest, finds herself in love with the laird of the manor.  In spite of warnings she embarks on a relationship with this young man, who is intrigued by her unconventional beauty and wild demeanour.  Of course he makes many promises and believing his sweet words she eventually finds herself changing in order to please him.  At first this involves only small things, taking a maid to help her dress, modifying her ways, wearing shoes and jewels, but the final straw is the taking on of a name.  Naming is ‘taming’ and once she agrees to this her nature is contained much like the caged bird that she has become.  Unsurprisingly the young noble eventually tires of his now tamed lover and moves on to find himself another young woman to whisper sweet nothings to.  There’s an old saying about hell having no fury like a woman scorned and this story certainly gives meaning to that old saying.  I won’t say more about the plot.

In terms of the characters, the nameless woman of the story makes for great reading.  Wild spirited and at one with nature she can transport herself into the bodies of the birds and animals of the forest, feeling, feeding and travelling as they do she makes absolutely fascinating reading.  I did feel sorry for her as she became lulled by love’s young dream.  There was no shortage of warnings and yet she placed all her faith into the charming young laird who was very quick to be rid of her when his guardian returned to the castle.  Her journey from there, well at first is one of disbelief, swiftly followed by anger at everything she’s lost and finally revenge.  From there on she becomes a much wilder and darker version of her former self. The majority of the other characters are perhaps quite not as engaging or well developed but they play their parts well.  The other character who does stand out, for me anyway, is Hawthorn –  I’ll leave the detail for you to discover for yourselves.

The writing is excellently done.  It has a lyrical sort of feel to it which totally belies the dark nature of the story.  The author has a wonderful way with words that makes it easy to envision the forest, the cold, the fear, the hunger, and even the warmth of the wolves who help our young protagonist to bear the cold of the winter months.  The story gradually works it’s way through the seasons of the year and the chapters are headed with a short poem or wise saying which really brings an extra level of poetry to the reading.  As with all fairytales there is a message to the ending which I thought came together in a surprising and satisfying way plus a good look at the inability of people to accept something or someone that they don’t really understand or is in any way different from the norm.

Basically, I thoroughly enjoyed this.  Joanne Harris is a wonderful story teller and bringing together a delicious combination of fairytale and mythology told in her lovely prose is an excellent idea and a delight to read.  Highly recommended if you fancy a dark tale to curl up with on a wintery night.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

 

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10 Responses to “A Pocketful of Crows by Joanne M. Harris”

  1. Jennifer | Book Den

    I’ve never read Joanne Harris. I feel like I’m missing out!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Well, I really like her books, I’ve had a couple that didn’t work for me but overall I just find her writing wonderful.
      Lynn 😀

  2. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    Gosh this sounds good, but then I guess I shouldn’t be surprised since this is Joanne Harris after all. Her books usually make it over here eventually, so I’m sure this one will be no different, so I’ll just have to sit and wait patiently for the day! In other news, I just got a copy of her book Different Class, so at least I’ll be getting my JH fix that way! 😀

    • @lynnsbooks

      I haven’t read Different Class – I look forward to your review. I loved this, it was a wonderfully dark fairytale-type tale.
      Lynn 😀

  3. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    You totally fascinated me with your review of this book: this is one of those times when my “book vibes” are calling very strongly, so strongly I’m unable to resist. And who would want to, after all? 🙂
    And a word for that magnificent cover: I *love* it!

    • @lynnsbooks

      I do love Joanne Harris, I’ve read plenty of her books and loved them, but, I like to think I’m not totally unbalanced because I’ve not enjoyed everything -and this one is definitely one of my favourites. I admit though, I have a penchant for fairytale type stories and this definitely falls into that category so in that respect I’m definitely biased. I loved the dark feel of this one though and it really is powerfully evocative.
      Lynn 😀

  4. sjhigbee

    What a lovely review, Lynn – it’s a joy reading such passion and excitement about a book:)). The cover is really eye-catching and I’ve made a note of this one…

    • @lynnsbooks

      I love Joanne Harris I have to admit but this one was really good – because of the fairytale feel and the dark undertones.
      Lynn 😀

  5. jessicabookworm

    Glad to hear you enjoyed this so much! I was very tempted to request this but I still have her Runemarks on my TBR so I resisted the urge…slightly wish I hadn’t now 😛

    • @lynnsbooks

      It was a very quick read – and I loved it, I really did. I haven’t read Runemarks so I’ll be interested to see what you make of that one.
      Lynn 😀

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