I have noticed, with despair, a growing trend to laud the stupid, the ignorant and those who are ‘keeping it real’ (whatever that might mean. If your idea of a good read is a book with short sentences, small words and small ideas, please don’t even bother reading on with this review. If, however, you like to read a book not just for the plot or the story, but for the language, the imagery and the magic, The Life of Elves might be for you.
Clara is a young girl with a human mother and elfin father and a piano prodigy who’s gift allows her to interpret stories and history and enables her to create clairvoyant links with others, specifically with Maria, a girl who despite having elfin parents passes for a human child. Maria has the ability to commune with nature and to bend it to her will. The girls were adopted by human families as babies, their adoptive parents knowing nothing of their provenance. The elfin council believes that together they can meld together the powers of nature and human art and bring about a utopian period for the world, human and elfin.
So much for the plot. Make no mistake, this is no YA book, and not a fairy tale for children. Instead, the adult reader may, like me, become seduced by the beauty of Barbery’s prose and by the magical possibilities she so eloquently describes.
The Life of Elves is hard work: sentences go on for clause after clause after clause and at the beginning I found myself struggling to make sure I was parsing each sentence properly. But after a while the music of the prose, its magic, pulled me in and totally entranced me. In the first few pages I cringed at the detailed descriptions of the girls, or the setting. I thought that the entire book would be over-written and that I’d have to slowly wade through it or give up. Instead, I found myself looking forward to indulging in the rich world the author created.
I guess this is a Marmite book: you’ll either hate it or, like me, fall in love.
I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley in return for an honest review.