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A Girl Made of Air av Nydia Hetherington



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With one of the most attractive cover designs of the year, A Girl Made of Air is the debut novel by Nydia Hetherington.

Beginning as an interview for the New York Times, our narrator slowly begins to share her life story. The reader learns upfront she was the The Greatest Funambulist Who Ever Lived and now finds herself searching for a lost child. (Fun fact: A funambulist is a tightrope walker).

Mouse was born into a circus family but remained an outcast within the unusual circus community. Her mother and father didn't take an interest in her upbringing and Mouse was left to her own devices and withdrew into herself. When Serendipity Wilson came along, Mouse's entire world changed.

This story is told by Mouse in her later years as she reflects on her life and shares details that build towards her search for a person lost in time. In order to piece together her history, Mouse shares her memories, letters and journal entries in an attempt to pull together the story of her life. She also includes stories within stories that were felt like fables, myths and folklore. The style put me in mind of The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern and Flyaway by Kathleen Jennings; both read earlier this year.

The narrator gives us the impression of a table covered with snippets that she is crafting into a cohesive story but I found it was too piecemeal for me. I didn't find this method particularly effective and it felt a little disjointed for my liking. It'd be interesting to know if the story was 'carved up' into this style to suit the narrative or whether it was written in this style and the narrative grew up around the content to explain the various 'entries' and insertion of different material.

Adding to the disrupted flow was the lack of dialogue punctuation and the use of italics to indicate when certain characters were speaking. I know this is a popular literary device, however I'm one of those readers who struggles without punctuation for speech.

Given the circus setting, I'm sure comparisons will be made between A Girl Made of Air and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, but I haven't read The Night Circus so it didn't influence my reading experience of this novel in any way; positive or negative.

A Girl Made of Air is an historical fiction fantasy novel touched by magical realism with characters you will remember. The narrator often addresses the reader (or interviewer for whom this text is intended) directly, and I'll leave you with an example from page 318:

'Are you wondering if there's to be a happy ending? I wish I could tell you. We must find the answer together.' Page 318

If you enjoyed The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern, I think you'll love this.

* Copy courtesy of Hachette Australia * ( )
  Carpe_Librum | Nov 10, 2020 |
Life in the circus.
This is a rather sad tale centering around an unwanted daughter who lives in a run-down travelling circus. I could imagine her, unwashed and unloved, hiding under the wagons just hoping for a sign of recognition from her parents. Fortunately, things improve when Serendipity Wilson joins the circus. Serendipity Wilson is a high wire act, a funambulist, who teaches 'Mouse' the tricks of the trade. Mouse practices constantly and eventually becomes skilled on the wire.
Life in the circus is tough and complicated, and Mouse learns information about herself that she could never have guessed. I don't want to say too much more about the plot however, and spoil it for other readers.

I enjoyed the varied characters and thought the narrator, Natalie Pela, did a great job, five stars to her.
My main issue with the book was the fairy-tale morality stories, supposedly told by Serendipity Wilson, that popped up during the narrative, I'm afraid I found them irritating and rather unnecessary.

While I did enjoy this, I recognise that anyone setting a book in the circus has two tough acts to follow: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. I wonder if my expectations were therefore unreasonably high.
This is the author's debut novel and will certainly be interested to see what she comes up with next. ( )
  DubaiReader | Sep 3, 2020 |
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