A Pocketful of Crows by Joanne M Harris
|A Pocketful of Crows by Joanne M Harris|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Lesley Mason|
|Summary: A modern fairy tale that will delight younger readers and adults alike, and hopefully make us all think into the bargain. Beautifully illustrated, totally magical.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 240||Date: October 2017|
|External links: Author's website|
I have always been of the mind that once you're above picture-book level and before you get to graphic sex & violence, there is no difference between books for children and books for adults. There are good books and poor ones. And Joanne Harris does not produce poor ones. A Pocketful of Crows is clearly aimed at the younger readers as witness the use of the middle initial in the author's name to differentiate from her adult offers. Ignore that if you have loved anything from Chocolat onwards you will know that Harris is mistress of the modern fairy tale. This is no different. It is an utter delight.
A wild child, a child of the woods, a nameless young woman, one of the travelling folk who have no need of names because a named thing is a tamed thing, falls in love. True to the tenets of such stories, she falls in love with the prince in the castle, and it would seem to begin with so does he with her. Gradually he ensnares her in his world of riches and wealth and fine gowns and maids…and gradually she loses touch with her wildness.
But then comes betrayal and loss and the desire for revenge…and she seeks advice from her own kind, from the Hawthorn who is as old as Old Age and still has a love for pretty things. Hawthorn cautions that there will be a price to pay, and it may be too high a one, especially for one who has been given a name.
As befits a book for younger readers, this is a short one at only 240 pages. For older lovers of love and romance and myth and magic and our place in the wild world, that is also a plus because this one begs to be read at a single sitting. Every page is a tapestry of words, every passage is a poem. It's the kind of book that makes the writer in you want to take notes, and the poet in you know there is no point. This is too beautiful to even begin to try to emulate.
There are songs of the seasons, myths, and legends, strung all through the story that leave me wondering which ones Harris discovered and which ones she simply made up, which also doesn't matter because I want to believe them all.
I suspect it's not by chance that Harris has made her free spirit of the woods a bonny brown girl and her lord of the manor pale skinned with eyes "the blue of jay's wing" and all the village maids "with primrose hair and a round milkweed face". It's not just a tale of love and loss; it's also a tale about love and freedom, about class and colour. It's also a book about nature. The travelling that the Travelling Folk do is reminiscent of the borrowing that my Pratchettian hero Granny Weatherwax does, it's travelling in the body of the other animals, experiencing the world as they might do.
On top of all that it is beautifully illustrated with Bonnie Helen Hawkins' phenomenally detailed monochrome pictures which are treasures individually, but also clever in showing the growth and changing moods of our woman of the woods.
The copy I read will have to be returned to the library when they re-open, but that's ok, I shall just have to go out and buy my own.
I can also recommend The Last Spell Breather by Julie Pike, another fantasy story that both younger and older readers will enjoy.
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