For years, rumours of the “Marsh Girl” haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet fishing village. Kya Clark is barefoot and wild; unfit for polite society. So in late 1969, when the popular Chase Andrews is found dead, locals immediately suspect her.
But Kya is not what they say. A born naturalist with just one day of school, she takes life’s lessons from the land, learning the real ways of the world from the dishonest signals of fireflies. But while she has the skills to live in solitude forever, the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. Drawn to two young men from town, who are each intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new and startling world—until the unthinkable happens.
I am in two minds after reading this novel. It has been a while since I’ve had such mixed feelings after finishing a book. I started this back in January after my sister gave it to me for Christmas with the note that this was one of her favourite reads from last year. So maybe I had high expectations? She hasn’t been wrong with recommendations for me before. In saying this, I didn’t dislike Where the Crawdads Sing, but nor did I really love it.
I do feel I have to start with how beautiful the writing itself was. Especially early on with the detailed nature descriptions, I was able to immerse myself in the time and place of this novel. This was the one constant within the alternating periods of time which I really liked. That even though time had moved on, the marsh Kya lived near and her connection to nature was still there, and possibly even stronger. It contrasted nicely with the chapters set in town from the perspectives of the police and other characters. The judgement and prejudice from the towns people is made harsher in the light of Kya’s home situation and her fascination with the marsh and its other in habitants. With all her hardships Kya is still much kinder than most of the privileged townspeople.
The most issue I had with it was how long it took for me to gain any connection with the characters or the plot. Strong, believable characters are what keep me reading, so if I can’t connect with the characters, or find them flat, I am just reading the words and not actually reading as I would like to. It is understandable early on, as we meet the main character when she is very young and her personality really forms as the story continues, but for me this was too little too late. Early on, there wasn’t much that happened that kept me wanting to continue. It was at about the 200 page mark where I finally had that ‘ah-ha’ moment and felt like I was connecting to the story, and to Kya. After those 200ish pages though, I almost couldn’t put the book down.
From that moment on, I found the novel enjoyable, maybe even unputdownable. I think this is mainly because it was at this point where the mystery part of the novel really came to the forefront. This was what had brought Where the Crawdads Sing onto my radar way before my sister gifted it to me, and I was loving it. The mystery itself – the investigation and court case included – was my favourite part of the novel. It was exciting, and kept me glued to the book as I tried to figure things out ahead of time.
Now having finished the novel, I feel there wasn’t enough I loved for me to be able to say I really enjoyed it, but I don’t completely dislike it. I am definitely glad that I read it, and thankful that my sister gifted it to me with her recommendation. As a whole, I would say this is a beautifully crafted novel, but that it falls short for me in terms of pacing and character. Nearing the end of the novel it was a tense and almost exciting read, which for me is what keeps it out of the ‘dislike’ pile. If this is the type of book you would usually read I do recommend you read it (if you already haven’t), and decide for yourself. There really is something special in this book, I just wasn’t the right person to find it – I hope you might be able to.