Ok, I admit it. I am a sucker for an attractive cover design. Here orange fireflies contrast perfectly against inviting sea greens, hinting gently at the magic that the pages of this novel contain, mesmerising by association (because fireflies are always magical and more than a little mysterious). The title too is intriguing, and you could be forgiven for missing the fact that Marvellous Ways is actually the name of the central protagonist and not just a clever turn of phrase to sum up the main driver of the story. As publishers well know, covers need to entice book browsers, much like pretty flowers lure insects. Thankfully, this one drew me as it is not an author I had previously considered. If it hadn’t I would have missed out on a thoroughly delightful, cockle-warmer of a story. The kind that makes you feel fuzzy and renewed: determined to live your life that much brighter and more purposefully.
It’s all thanks to Marvellous Ways! She is a quirky, fiercely independent Octogenarian full of spirit and determined to end out her days living her life in the unique way she always has (which means living off the land in an all but deserted tidal creek in Cornwall). It is clear from the narrative, that she is a very wise lady whom we could all learn much from- especially the grace and kindness with which she ceaselessly conducts herself. Having had a quirky Granddad, who followed his own path and was comfortable in his own skin (even though most would have dismissed him for superficial reasons) these qualities are something that I cherish in such people, should I be lucky enough to encounter them. They usually see or understand something magical or significant, that passes the majority of us by. So rather than dismissing someone with dishevelled clothing or bottle-stop glasses fastened by elastic bands we should try to see beyond these trivialities and listen to and watch them- we will usually be surprised at all the things we learn. It goes without saying, that my Grandfather, with his dusty unkempt house and visiting goats to mow his front lawn (in an inner city area) and meditating at 3pm every day for world peace (things that some would scorn at) was the most evolved person that I have ever been lucky enough to be in the company of. Reading about Marvellous reminded me of him, and I knew she would bring joy to my soul and show me the beauty of this world, just in her existence.
Sarah Winman, did this lovely character absolute justice both in the magical, redemptive tale she weaves for her and in the beauty of her lyrical prose which both forwards the narrative and develops the characters so nimbly, that all of your senses become involved in the world that is being evoked. I really felt the healing powers of the water, which invigorated and restored me by proxy (along with the resolution of this intricate plot). There is much to be said for a writer who can encourage her readers to open their eyes wider than the story they are reading, to consider the magic that can be lurking all around you: such people could be right under our noses and we might not even know it. Apart from being thoroughly moved by Marvellous’ last adventure, it left me wanting to appreciate the beauty of life, nature and people all the more. To seek the unexpected. To be more open- which is not an easy feat in our cynical world.
I urge you all to read this book and I dare you not to be caught up in its magic. Smile at strangers. Take the time to help that old lady crossing the road- you can bet she has some wisdom to share and some interesting stories to tell. Stop rushing about. Sit next to a river or a tree. Breathe. Really look at what is around you. You may be surprised. This novel clearly is a gateway drug to enlightenment!