Book Review: The Anatomy of Wings by Karen Foxlee




I stumbled upon this book in the school library. This was a very fruitful library search, because I found two contemporary books – both by Australian authors, set in Australia! I have to admit that I haven’t read much Aussie contemporary. Melina Marchetta hasn’t yet wormed her way onto my reading list.

The Anatomy of Wings though…wow, what a fantastic book. It’s one of those books that people either love or hate, I think. I visited the Goodreads page for it, and was surprised by how many two-star reviews there were.

I can’t say I blame those reviewers. I can understand why they wouldn’t like this book, because it’s different. Basically, the main character’s sister has just died, most probably a suicide. There have been so many books about suicide, but this one, I repeat, was different. The main character Jenny is only ten, and her perspective on events is startlingly at odds with the nature of those events herself. The lens through which she views the world is innocent but also more perceptive than many other characters. For example, there’s this paragraph:

It was good to hear Mum talking again but it was strange also because her voice didn’t sound exactly like it used to.  It reminded me of a teaspoon tapped against a teacup, it had a hollow fragile ring to it. It could break very easily.

This book is devastating. Funny. Beautifully written, in a way that’s odd and new and lyrical.

People have condemned the book for different reasons. It’s too tragic. There’s no hope. It’s not very realistic. It was too abstract. It jumped back and forth too much. The sub-plots had no bearing to the actual plot.

But I didn’t mind any of these things. I read the book coming home on the train for three days. It’s the kind of book that makes you feel lonely and hopeful all at once, as though something about it, some inherent quality, just jumps in and makes you feel ALL the emotions, ALL at once. Yes, it’s sad. Yes, you might not like it.

I did. Lots of other people did. You might, too. For anyone that likes contemporary fiction (and also to those who don’t), I would recommend that you read this on a dark train, being lulled into the beautifully tragic story. And I would recommend that you remember it months later, and begin to think that it was much better than it really was.

It’s that sort of book.

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