Book Review: A Year of Marvellous Ways by Sarah Winman


I really wanted to like this book; and I did. It's lyrical and poetic and describes little woodland cabins on the banks of a Cornish creek. 90-something-year -old Marvellous Ways has a unique and inspirational way of living. Largely disconnected from the post-war world she lives in, her life centres on her immediate surroundings and the people who intermittently inhabit them. Lighting the evening candle in her secluded island churchyard is the routine ritual of her day, as well as a naked dip in the creek outsider her gypsy wagon home.


I'd have loved the book to stay with Marvellous, but instead it guides us also through the story of soldier Francis Drake. Returning from France to London, he miserably chases an equally troubled woman who eventually disappears beneath the surface of the Thames, prompting Drake to drunkenly make his way to Cornwall. (He has to hand-deliver an important letter.)


Luckily for him, and us the reader, he is found by old Marvellous Ways and nursed back to physical and spiritual health. I don't want to give away too much of the plot, other than to say that this is not a plot-driven novel. The characters are charming to spend time with, but anyone looking for a satisfying narrative conclusion may be left wanting...


Our book club read this one for April and we discussed our reactions last night. Our reviews were mixed, but we generally agreed that although the plot structure sometimes feels a bit clunky, the beautiful descriptions of a simplistic and whimsical life redeem the book into being one we would recommend.


I'm also looking forward to reading Sarah Winman's other (quite different) books, Tinman and When God Was A Rabbit.