A Year of Marvellous Ways by Sarah Winman
PUBLISHED (paperback) 28/12/2015
This book sang to me.
It was many songs at once – a love song, a lullaby and a sea shanty all rolled into one glorious ballad.
The themes of friendship and love, of new beginnings and meaningful endings are uplifting and inspiring. The story tells of a year in the life of 89-year-old Marvellous Ways who has lived all her life in and around an old boathouse up a secluded creek in Cornwall. Her memories of past passions and pains become entwined with the lives of other fabulously named characters- broken soldier Francis Drake, star baker Peace and Paper Jack. In sorting out the memories of her own life, Marvellous brings comfort and hope to those around her.
The importance of telling one’s story is crucial to the book but, for me, the language brought equal pleasure. It is simply beautiful- some phrases stopped me in my reading tracks. The description of a pitch-black sky as a “tarry, tarry night” made me put the book down to laugh out loud and take a moment to recover.
This is Sarah Winman’s second novel. Her first, When God was a Rabbit, was a huge success and I really enjoyed that too. Marvellous Ways has the same strong sense of place, wordy humour and intensity of feeling. We had the pleasure of hosting an event with Sarah and asking the questions we’d been longing to ask. She was as wise as her books and captured the interest of her audience with ease. She is, she said, ‘not interested in the probable, only the possible’ – it is this openness to magical possibility that shines through her stories.
So, get yourself a glass of sloe gin, light your oil lamp and curl up with one of my new all-time favourite books.
“It was a sense, that’s all, something that had come to her on the tail feather of a dream- one of Paper Jack’s dreams, God rest his soul- and it had flown over the landscape of sleep just before light and she hadn’t been able to grasp that tail feather and pull it back before it disappeared over the horizon and disintegrated in the heat of a rising sun. But she had known its message: Wait, for it’s coming.”