Anyone that read Sarah Winman’s brilliant debut novel When God Was a Rabbit was probably eagerly awaiting the follow-up A Year of Marvellous Ways.
I really loved When God Was a Rabbit and yet Marvellous Ways sat on the windowsill in my bedroom for the better part of a year.
What was I waiting for? I’m not sure. Something stopped me from picking it up.
I think, because of how much I enjoyed her first book, I was wary that I wouldn’t enjoy Winman’s second.
I was right to be wary. The two books are quite different, apart from the wonderful writing. I think, just because you might have liked Rabbit, it doesn’t mean you will like Marvellous Ways.
Marvellous Ways is more ethereal, there’s an almost supernatural quality to it, which was there in a small way in Rabbit, but manifests itself more here. There are more unexplained happenings, everything is a little more subtle.
The two main characters Marvellous Ways and Francis Drake (really) are well drawn – some of the surrounding characters less so – although I think that’s intentional, like a director focusing on the middle of the screen, the rest of the world happening in the blurred edges.
It’s a little jarring towards the end of the novel when Drake’s young age of twenty seven is mentioned, he comes across as much older, although again, probably intentional. This is a man, after all, who has come back from a difficult war.
Be it fate or accident, Drake stumbles upon Marvellous Ways, and he stays with her. She counsels him, and at the same time he resolves things for her.
In the last days of old age Marvellous Ways possesses a presence that draws the reader in, wanting to learn about her past. Drake, searching for the beginning of a new life, teases the potential of the future.
I walked away from the book knowing I enjoyed it, knowing that these two characters were better for having known each other, utterly believing that they existed… but not entirely sure that I’m a hundred per cent clear on what happened.
Perhaps it’s one I’ll need to re-read someday.
A Year of Marvellous Ways scores 3.4 out of 5. It suffers slightly in comparison to When God Was a Rabbit – but still a very good book.