Book Review: The First Book of Calamity Leek by Paula Lichtarowicz
March 8, 2013 17 Comments
Windmill 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