Book Review: Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia OwensWhere The Crawdads Sing is full of despair, poverty, prejudice and loneliness beyond all imagining. But it is also a book that delights in the wonderous gifts of the natural world. It tells the heart-breaking story of Kya, the ‘marsh girl’. Her mother walks off when she is still a young child, walking away without saying goodbye or even waving. She’s too young to understand what’s going on, but then her older brothers and sisters leave too, and soon she is left alone with her father, a veteran of the war, drinking his way steadily through their small income, unpredictable in his rages.  

Kya soon learns to fend for herself, to hide from strangers, or from the school truant officers. She must learn how to forage for food, how to cook, how to find her way around the marsh, and how to live with her abandonment, always hoping that her mother will return. Eventually, she begins to seek refuge amongst the creatures of the marsh, learning their language and their habits, making a family out of gulls and herons and hawks.

Meanwhile, the novel pulls us into Kya’s future. When a body is found in the marsh, with no witnesses, and no evidence to explain how it got there, the local townspeople seek someone to blame, and Kya’s strange life on the marsh falls under suspicion.

I loved reading Owens’ evocative depictions of the marshland, and the way that Kya begins to learn from the natural world around her.

However, the use of poems in the novel seemed a little odd to me. Kya becomes interested in poetry when she encounters a boy on the marsh who offers friendship, teaching her to read. Then at various points she recites poems out loud in deep frustration, or desire, or heartache. I’m not against characters who recite poetry, being a poet myself, it just felt as though the poems were shoe-horned into the narrative, in a way that didn’t seem natural, more of a plot device than anything else.

Despite this occasional awkwardness, I loved the book, and would definitely recommend it as a gripping, entertaining, and emotive novel that will capture your imagination and open your eyes to the marvels of nature, and the depths of human kindness.

Buy Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.

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