Arts Reviews

February Book Of The Month: Where The Crawdads Sing

Gemma Cockrell

Kya Clark has lived in the marshes of North Carolina her entire life, leaving residents of the local villages referring to her as the Marsh Girl, afraid and intimidated by her otherness. However, when two men from the nearby town become intrigued by her wild beauty, her whole life changes, and even though Kya has been alone for her entire life, she must open herself up to companionship. Gemma Cockrell reviews.

At its core, Where The Crawdads Sing is a celebration and appreciation of nature, depicting beautiful images of the natural world that Kya is immersed in. However, the novel is also much more than that. Within less than 400 pages, Delia Owen manages to cover a broad range of themes and genres, including coming of age, romance, domestic abuse, racial discrimination that occurred in 1960’s America, and murder mystery.

However, none of it feels rushed, or without purpose. Every plotline that may seem separate to begin with, blurs and merges into one by the end of the novel, accumulating in a neatly told tale that wraps everything up without any lose ends or unsolved plotlines.

You are truly seeing the setting through Kya’s own unique viewpoint

A criticism that I have seen of the novel in other reviews is that the sections of the book that centre on Kya and her relationship with Tate in the marsh, and the opposing murder mystery plotline, feel as though they are written by two separate authors, and do not belong to the same story.

However, as I was reading it, I felt that this was exactly what Delia Owens was intending to do. It establishes a sharp contrast between the natural purity of the marsh and Kya and Tate’s love, and the harsh, unnatural brutality of civilisation and the justice system, and it is very effective in making the reader share Kya’s appreciation of her connections to the natural world.

Delia Owen’s prose when describing the unique setting of the desolate and secluded marsh is what truly brings this book to life, with lushly dense and poetic descriptions of nature that are so vivid and striking that as the reader, you feel that you are truly seeing the setting through Kya’s own unique viewpoint.

Yet, it is not only her descriptive writing that should be applauded, but also her ability to feature some unexpected twists and turns beyond the point that the reader believes will be the ending of the novel. Whilst these don’t influence the core plotline, they provide nuance to the final few pages of the book.

You can wholly understand why she is undergoing each multifaceted emotion

The complexity of Kya as a character is the driving force of the story, as none of the events would be as captivating as they are without her being at the centre of them. She is anything but simple or one-dimensional, portrayed in such great depth that as the reader, you can wholly understand why she is undergoing each multifaceted emotion that she encounters throughout her lifetime. This allows you to delve into her psyche as you are reading, and truly appreciate how her isolation and abandonment, her desperate fight for survival, and her experiences of first love have shaped her character.

As a novel, Where The Crawdads Sing truly does have a bit of everything. It is partly a murder mystery, partly a coming of age, partly a romantic love affair, and entirely brilliant.

Gemma Cockrell

Featured image courtesy of Ed Robertson via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.

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