Originally published: 2015
Author: Sarah Winman
Published by: Tinder Press
Length: 320 pages
Reading dates: 25-29 March 2022
The Shoreham by Sea book club are following the Chichester Libraries Reading Challenge this year and the choice for March was “a book to make you feel good”. We always make suggestions and then vote (I always try and choose something off my TBR) and A Year of Mysterious Ways was the winner! I have heard so many amazing things about Still Life (which I still have to read) and was keen to read one of her backlist books.
Marvellous Ways is eighty-nine years old and has lived alone in a remote Cornish creek for nearly all her life. Lately she’s taken to spending her days sitting on a mooring stone by the river with a telescope. She’s waiting for something – she’s not sure what, but she’ll know it when she sees it.
Drake is a young soldier left reeling by the Second World War. When his promise to fulfil a dying man’s last wish sees him wash up in Marvellous’ creek, broken in body and spirit, the old woman comes to his aid.
A YEAR OF MARVELLOUS WAYS is a glorious, life-affirming story about the magic in everyday life and the pull of the sea, the healing powers of storytelling and sloe gin, love and death and how we carry on when grief comes snapping at our heels.
The year is 1947 and 89 year old Marvellous Ways is living in a remote Cornish creek near the fictional village of St Ophere waiting for something, she just isn’t sure what. Francis Drake, a young soldier returning traumatised from World War 2 travels to Cornwall to hand deliver a letter to the father of a young man who died on the battlefield. Near death, he finds his way to her creek and this is the story of his heeling both physically and mentally.
This book really divided book club which I actually love because it makes for a brilliant discussion. A couple of members absolutely loved this book but most thought it was just OK. I’m afraid I was one of these – I’m not keen on books that aren’t set firmly in reality and some of the bits about Marvellous Ways were a little dreamy and I couldn’t tell what was real and what wasn’t. I sometimes found when I was reading her sections that my mind would wander and I’d realise I hadn’t taken in what was happening. I much preferred the bits with Francis Drake and although his stories of the war were at times distressing, I just found him more interesting.
We all decided that this book did not really meet the brief of “a book to make you feel good” despite it’s title and I have to admit I wasn’t sure I’d pick up another book by this author but several people have told me A Year of Marvellous Ways is quite different to her other books so I’m even more keen now to see what Still Life is like.
About the author:
Sarah Winman (born 1964) is a British actress and author. In 2011 her debut novel When God Was a Rabbit became an international bestseller and won Winman several awards including New Writer of the Year in the Galaxy National Book Awards.