Book Review: The First Book of Calamity Leek by Paula Lichtarowicz

The First Book of Calamity Leek by Paula LichtarowiczWindmill Books, a UK publisher, are one of my favorite publishers. I seem to love all their books. Last year I discovered Hutchinson, an sister imprint that are bringing out some interesting new books. One of them is The First Book of Calamity Leek. I won this book in a Twitter contest last autumn. Well, I won a proof copy of the book (Hutchinson make beautiful proof copies, by the way).

The First Book of Calamity Leek: What it is about

From the publishers: “Books tell you what to believe. Books explain the world around you.

What if a book had been written to explain a world constructed only for you? What if that world suddenly fell apart?

Calamity Leek needs a new book. But she’s going to have to write it herself.”

The First Book of Calamity Leek: What I thought

Well, isn’t that vague? I mean, the above? I doubt you can make sense of it. I couldn’t. And that was fine, because you don’t want to know too much about the book before you start it. (So be aware of professional reviewers who are known for giving parts of a story away. It will spoil some of your reading pleasure.)

I was in a state of wonderment for a large part of the book. I just couldn’t decide whether what I was reading was in the past, in a post-apocalyptic future, or maybe only in the mind of the main character, Calamity Leek. Or was Calamity living in some kind of Wonderland? It was hard make up my mind.

She’s living on a kind of farm with her 12 stepsisters and Aunty, who looks after them. They work in a garden with a wall around it, which they are not to leave, as on the other side of the wall are injuns and demonmales. The sisters are being trained so they can go off and fight the demonmales when they’re older.

After a few chapters a new setting is introduced which strongly contrasts with the first. This setting was more recognizable for me. However, only very little is given away, and most of the book is the story about Calamity and her sisters on the farm. After my wonderment, just as this story became a little bit old, sister Annie started to play up. Through Calamity’s disbelieving eyes, we see how Annie finds out about the world around her, which will eventually have a devastating effect on all of them.

Very cleverly the farm story and the other story come together and the reader can progressively cross off more hypotheses of what is going on with Calamity. I loved this story, that goes from quirky to sad to hopeful.

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

Number of pages: 296 (ARC)

First published: 2013

I got this: a win from the publishers, Hutchinson, via Twiter

Genre: literary fiction

Extra: For Dutch readers – this book will be out in Dutch this autumn with publisher Atlas Contact


About Judith
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17 Responses to Book Review: The First Book of Calamity Leek by Paula Lichtarowicz

  1. I am so pleased to hear you enjoyed this so much Judith. The vague synopsis caught my attention and it went on my wishlist the moment I saw it.

  2. Beth DiIorio says:

    Hi Judith,
    The First Book of Calamity Leek sounds wonderful…I’m very intrigued. Just added it to my Goodreads list…can’t wait to read it!
    Beth 🙂

  3. Charlie says:

    I loved the book cover and now I’m sold – I wasn’t expecting a premise like that and it sounds better than I wouldn’t thought.

  4. Looks like an interesting read. I love the cover too.

  5. I liked the vague synopsis too, but want to read it even more after your review. It sometimes seems like we won’t see anything new anymore and then a unique story like this one comes along…

  6. Sounds like a strange but intriguing story, Judith. I might want to read it… 🙂

  7. I’m loving this one, but dreading trying to write a review. It is impossible to write anything without giving things away. Your warning to avoid reading other reviews is very good advise. I hope I enjoy the second half as much as the first. If I do then I can see me giving it 5 stars too 🙂

    • Leeswammes says:

      Glad you’re enjoying it so much, Jackie. The book starts slow, but there is more and more action as the book progresses. I hope you like that. I did, because you find out more about what is going on.

  8. I have been pondering this one (and I know what you mean about pro reviewers revealing too much in their mission to analyse).

  9. Pingback: Latest Acquisitions (May 2013) || The Worm Hole

  10. Stacy says:

    Great review! This book is going on my my to-read list. Thanks for the info on the publishers too. I’m going to check out what other titles they offer.

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