Ivory Apples by Lisa Goldstein

Posted On 14 November 2019

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IvoryApplesIvory Apples is one of those magical realism stories that also contains a book within a book.  It took me on the strangest journey to be honest and I can well imagine that this will definitely be a book that speaks to different readers in different ways.  On the face of it you could say this is about the hidden magic that sometimes touches people’s lives.  By the same token you could read between the lines and say this is a book about so much more.  Family dynamics, mythology, obsession and survival all play a role here and just a heads up this book is a wrecking ball on emotions and can be quite dark in a number of ways.  In other words magical realism can be one tough cookie so don’t underestimate it.

I’m not going to elaborate massively on the plot.  We meet Ivy and her family while she’s quite young.  They’re a slightly eccentric family, Ivy’s mother has passed away and their father looks after his four daughters.  Things are a little crazy but everyone is happy.  The family secret, kept firmly in the closet like all skeletons, is Great Aunt Maeve.  Maeve is the assumed name of famous author Adela Madden.  Adela wrote a book called Ivory apples – only the one book – but it has become something of a cult phenomenon and Adela went into hiding as a result.  Ivy and her family keep their aunt’s secret closely guarded, they visit her once a month but they never use her real name.  Then a stranger befriends the girls.  Kate, she’s almost too good to be true in some respects, like Mary Poppins landing on your doorstep and feeding you ladles of sugar.  Somethings up though and Ivy can just feel it and pretty soon everything is going to become a series of unfortunate events – yes, that was intentional.

So, if I’m not going to discuss the plot any further then what else?

Firstly, the writing.  This is my first book by Lisa Goldstein but here is an author that definitely needs to go on my auto buy list.  I don’t know what it is but here is an author that can make a book feel personal.  Like this book was written for me.  It was, I swear it was. The writing is really lovely, hypnotic almost.

Secondly the characters.  Let’s just be brutally honest – Ivy and Kate are the main characters – which isn’t to say that the supporting cast is weak just more that they’re show stealers.  Ivy has a great narrative voice that really hooked me in quickly.  Kate on the other hand.  She is relentless, she’s like the Terminator, she absolutely WILL NOT STOP.  She refuses to be beaten down or give in and it gives her a certain scary element that you begin to really buy into.  Like, she really can’t be stopped.

Thirdly, the inclusion of mythology.  I’m not going to tell you in what respect this plays a part because that would take us to the land of spoilers but I can say I loved this aspect and the way it’s magical but at the same time you could pass it off, just like when you see something out of the corner of your eye – you didn’t really see something – or did you?  So, yeah, the magic is here, it plays a very real part in the lives written about – but it’s an element that you could really think into, like is this really about coming of age, about finding yourself, about thinking you need something more than you actually need it.  I’m sorry for being mysterious but I really don’t want to give things away whilst at the same time I really want to discuss the way this made me feel.

Criticisms.  Nothing really, there are a few moments here and there where lulls occurred but they were fleeting.  I also must say that some of the things that the girls experienced made me feel downright sad – particularly one event which hit me out of nowhere.  And, I would just throw in here that I’ve read a couple of books recently with a very similar feel in certain regards – namely the famous author in hiding, the one off fantasy novel that is a huge success, etc, but, this books stands on it’s own in all other respects, just saying.

This is a novel driven by family, by love, by envy, by obsession and by finding yourself, your real self, and coming to terms with it.  And, in the midst of all of this is a magical forest and mythological creatures.

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