Tirzah and the Prince of Crows by Deborah Kay Davies

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Tirzah and the Prince of Crows by Deborah Kay Davies

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ruth Wilson
Reviewed by Ruth Wilson
Summary: This is a beautiful, quiet book about a young girl who is struggling to decide what she believes and who she wants to be. Raised in a strict household within a strict religious community Tirzah starts to look at the world around her with new eyes. Is this really what she wants from life? More importantly, is this really all that she is? As she begins to experiment and take risks, she learns what she wants and what she will not put up with any longer. This is more than a coming of age story; it is also a gentle and lyrical love story to the Welsh countryside and the people who live in it.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: October 2018
Publisher: Oneworld
ISBN: 978-1786074447

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This is a quiet but remarkable story, written in a style reminiscent of E. M. Forster, Tirzah and the Prince of Crows has no great and stirring action but rather small ripples that make a huge impact. Tirzah is a young girl of sixteen raised in a small Welsh town in the 1970s by highly religious parents as part of a strict religious community. The book follows Tirzah though a tumultuous year as she tries to decide who she wants to be, and what she wants to do with her life.

Tirzah is aware of who she should be; raised by her parents to be meek and mild, seen but not heard, modest and unassuming. We first meet Tirzah as she begins to realize that not only is she none of these things, but that she never wants to be. She willingly admits that she is selfish, that she values and considers her feelings above those of her parents, but as a reader we cannot help but be charmed by this, after all what teenager is not a little self-consumed? However, Tirzah knows she shouldn't be and struggles between being pulled into line and knowing that she desperately doesn't want to.

Davies does a tremendous job with all the characters in the story, they are rich and deep and some you can't help liking despite Tirzah fighting against them. Tirzah's mother, in particular, is written beautifully. As a reader, we can see what Tirzah cannot, that her mother is trying to protect her but is herself confined by their culture of obedience. As Tirzah slowly pulls away more and more we also see her mother becoming stronger to better protect her daughter. Tirzah is not yet mature enough to see what her mother is doing but the reader is very aware of her mother's strength of character. She is a character of quiet determination rather than Tirzah's strong resistance.

Another major character in this novel is the Welsh countryside, the description of the village and surrounding area is beautiful and moving. It is almost as if the landscape has a personality of its own. Davies talks about woods full of barely constrained feelings and movement, of the landscape talking to Tirzah and often providing an escape from her emotional battles. The surrounding countryside is Tirzah's friend and ally, or sometimes it is menacing and dark reminding her of the safety of her home. At all times it is beautiful, raw and powerful and serves to remind Tirzah of how temporary all things are. Nature is Tirzah's escape from life but often it is where she learns her most important lessons and has a huge influence on her life and choices.

The plot is like the gentle unravelling of a ball of wool; it's seemingly inconsequential but, without realising it, Tirzah's previous life is slowly unravelled. At first glance, nothing much happens, Tirzah lives a very straightforward life, but on reflection, each action, no matter how small, has an impact in shaping Tirzah's opinions and character. The negative actions of those in her religious community show her who she does not want to be, and the downward slope of those who obey. She begins to realise that there is more to people than she previously thought, and as she slowly matures, she can see the impact people have on those around them. It also slowly dawns on Tirzah as her O- Levels approach that she has the potential for more, and possibly a life outside of the confines of her village and her family if she wants it.

My only disappointment with this book is one that cannot be helped, it ends! I became so caught up in Tirzah's life as she works towards fully understanding what she wants and who she is, and finally she has a great epiphany at the end of the story, then it abruptly ends. I wish we could know more; what does she do next? Does she act on her epiphany? Does she achieve her goals? But the story must end somewhere, and what we see in this novel is a snapshot of a young girl's life at the moment of her choosing her path and it is testament to Davies writing and the beauty of this book that you cannot help but become invested in the character of Tirzah.

Alternatively, for something similar you could try The Lost Letters of William Woolf by Helen Cullen.

Buy Tirzah and the Prince of Crows by Deborah Kay Davies at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Tirzah and the Prince of Crows by Deborah Kay Davies at Amazon.co.uk

Buy Tirzah and the Prince of Crows by Deborah Kay Davies at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Tirzah and the Prince of Crows by Deborah Kay Davies at Amazon.com.


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