I can’t seem to recall how A Year of Marvelous Ways came to be in my iBooks but one day I looked for a book to read and it was there. The novel shares its author, Sarah Winman, with the novel When God was a Rabbit which is one of the books from my childhood that still stirs emotion in me to this day. I think that might have something to do with it.

Whatever the story behind the story, I am so glad that I decided to open this mysterious novel and see what it had to offer. The story follows an elderly gyspy woman named Marvelous Ways who has lived a strangely exotic and charming life with emotion bursting at the seam. It has been far from easy, something she shares with the novel’s second protagonist. A solider left wondering what life he has left after the war finds himself, broken and hopeless, at the foot of Marvelous’s caravan, and her decision to take him in changes theirs lives by bringing to unlikely souls together. Each word on the page oozes poetry and beauty; this is not the faced paced thriller I am usually drawn to, but a calm, hypnotic legend that left me in a trance the whole way through.

Having said this, at first, the novel focuses only on bizarre Marvelous and doesn’t give the reader much of an idea as to what the rest of the novel will focus on. It almost seemed too poetic, to away with the fairies. It felt slow and I couldn’t help but wonder if the whole novel was just going to be this way. I could appreciate the beautiful descriptions and artistic story telling but there wasn’t much enticing me to read on.

Just as I was about to put the book away for another day, the second protagonist was introduced and my interest was sparked just enough to encourage me to turn the page. And here, I was gripped; an obvious plot at last! Winman’s success comes from her ability to develop and weave together this plot with her incredible ability to paint images in the mind of a reader.

A fun fact about me: I breathe differently when I’m inspired. It may sound bizarre but it’s true. Instead of breathing in an unaware state as one normally does, in times like these when I'm touched deeply by something, I breath from further within my chest and with each inhalation I feel the air hit the back of my throats and flood my lungs. I feel light and open. Tranquility becomes me as I allow the writer's words to take over, forcing out any bad thought of my own. With each breath I am reminded of the beauty of the world. I am aware. I feel alive. And that can be said of this book. I know it sounds a bit bizarre but it’s a difficult feeling to describe, but I do feel that some of you will know what I’m talking about.

It’s been a while since I’ve read a book that alters my breathing in this way and I’d forgotten just how alive it can make you feel. As I read the words I could hear the crunching of leafs, smell the aroma of freshly baked bread, taste the saltiness of the fishes in the sea, see the expanse of nothingness floating across the water.

Winman tells stories within stories, recounts tales part of other tales. She creates legends and truths but leaves the reader to decide which is which. An adult fairytale giving us the chance to slip back into fantasy once again. There is always more to learn, more to discover and Winman keeps us hanging even though we don’t feel like we’re gripping onto much at all. But we don’t fall. We stay gripped to her every word.

Published by Kate Beckitt