Review Blog

Mar 02 2017

Words in deep blue by Cath Crowley

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Pan Macmillan, 2016. ISBN 9781742612386
(Age: Adolescent - Adult) Recommended. This delightful novel is about the joy of writing, of love, of families, of the angst and joy of adolescence, of stories and of the place of books in today's world. Situating her story in a country town, Cath Crowley centres her story on one family who own a bookshop, who are passionate about books and reading, and who live above the shop. The struggle to survive as booksellers in today's world, is at the heart of the narrative, particularly given the threat to books, and by inference, to reading, that is potent in the novel.
The quirky and charming aspect of this shop is that many people write notes to loved ones, to friends, to those who are no longer living, or just to anyone who might, one day, find the note. Some write back, their reply encouraging friendship or relationships, and others just read the notes. The simple love of reading, of the welcoming of readers who come into the shop just to read the notes, is at the core of the novel. We know from the start that the bookshop's role in the town is threatened, and we are caught up in the underlying note of sadness - that with the demise of the shop, their lives will change drastically.
Crowley captivates her readers, inviting us into the intimate world of people's thoughts and relationships through the letters, the little love stories, the stories of those who part, and the stories of deep friendship, of loss and of recovery. Crowley has included some thought-provoking little messages at the start of each chapter, and these reflect the emotions and lives of the characters. The letter-narrative is told in the first person from a number of note-writers, while the narrative itself is told by various characters, of different ages, told in the first person. Somehow, once we get to recognize who is speaking, this quirky structure works and we begin to understand the characters in their sometimes confessional, sometimes angry, sometimes puzzled narratives. Despite the presence of change and of incipient loss, the feeling of possibility is potent, as we are caught up in the small worlds of the adolescents and the adults who live, for a brief time, in this quirky story. It is suitable for both adolescent readers and adults who are happy to read about life as experienced by adolescents, with all its angst, joy and potency.
Liz Bondar
Editor's note: This is a CBCA Notable for older readers, on longlist for the Inky Award.

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