“Pour vivre heureux, vivons cachés – to live happily, live hidden.”
Can any good come of longings that a person can never satisfy? If so, good for whom?
Two corpses wash ashore in a picturesque Italian village, the violence that put them there is bound to a long held secret and two strangers living worlds apart with seemingly nothing in common.
Benedict Grant a high achiever, wealthy Londoner, leading a lonely life.
Marie Boulanger a nurse and single mum, struggling to make ends meet in Marseille.
However, a mother’s illicit revelation will set in motion a chain of events that will reshape their identities, stir poignant family affairs and delve into the by-products of lawless decisions.
Discover a captivating and moving story of impossible yearnings, weaving mystery, drama and romance peppered with humour. A tale that will stay with you long after its final page and a twist you won’t see coming.
This was a compelling read, filled with unique characters with complex personalities. From the beginning the reader is introduced to the mystery of two dead bodies washed ashore a touristy beach. The rest of the story is then told through multiple perspectives: the handsome detective Giandomenico, the overbearing wealthy businessman Benedict Grant, and nurse / single mom Marie Boulanger. I truly felt transported to London and Marseille–the latter being more of a favorite because of all the delightful description of the sceneries and the food. I’m still craving for navettes and bouillabaisse!
“It is expected of women, even in this modern world, to not voice or manifest this kind of pain.”
The build up is really good. It’s one of those novels with seemingly unrelated characters so it may be a bit jarring to jump from one scenario to another. In addition to the switching perspectives, there are time jumps, too. At first I was mostly curious about how they’re all connected to each other and to the dead bodies at the beach. But looking back, what I liked best about the book is in its themes rather than in the plot.
“One cannot judge the children by their parents.”
The author definitely has talent when it comes to introducing characters. I like her quirky style and roundabout way of establishing her scenarios. The characters are mostly flawed and problematic but Ode Ray has a way of building their personalities so that the reader will be able to empathize with their situation. I personally don’t approve of some of their decisions but in the end I couldn’t help but root for them. After all, people are just products of their upbringing and are shaped by the kind of society they belong to.
“In the same way that no level of alluring or state of undress gives anyone grounds for rape, people’s sexual orientation can never excuse acts of violence.”
The novel touches on quite a number of progressive themes: adoption, motherhood, immigrant life, normalizing facial differences, homosexuality and surrogacy, among others. In general, it focuses on society’s many forms of stereotyping and toxic preconceptions for things they don’t fully understand.
I loved how the novel showed the differences between people living on opposite ends of the socio-economic privilege spectrum–not only in lifestyle but in personalities and overall attitude towards humanity. The book also highlighted how the sense of community in impoverished areas is the key for them to survive and thrive in a tough world run by money.
“He had learned to keep quiet about not wanting children as whatever his reasons they were all deemed inherently selfish or bad by people with kids as if his life choices were interpreted as a criticism of theirs.”
Some parts may feel a bit unpolished, but that’s not unexpected for a debut novel. The writing is quite elaborate and I honestly began to feel the weight of all the similes and metaphors halfway through. If this style is something you like, then this is definitely for you. Though it can be distracting at times, I also think that the raw and intense voice of the novel is its own unique charm.
More importantly, I should mention that the tone of the novel employs wry humor, and the thing with this kind of style is that there are instances wherein others may feel uncomfortable with. For example, there was a scene where a character misgendered someone, and also there was a man repeatedly described as “enormous” and was an object of a low-key fat-shaming joke between two of the characters. Said scenarios are both insignificant details in relation to the plot.
“Most people like to hear that word, sorry, some even fight for it. Whole nations, as it happens, fight for it.”
Lastly, since this is a book that promises a shocking twist at the ending, I can confirm for you — and I promise no spoilers!– that yes, it was rather sad and totally unexpected. The conclusion is an unfortunate event that perfectly illustrates how cruel fate can be and the high price we have to pay in order to escape the mold of society and live an authentic life. It’s totally up to the reader to decide how to feel about it–whether it’s a happy ending or not. I choose to feel hopeful and forward-looking.
I do hope you get to pick up this book, see for yourself, and support an independent author! Of Magpies and Men will be out on February 2021 💖
Big thanks to the author for providing an advanced reader copy of her debut novel in exchange for an honest review. I do not own any of the images used in the mood board. These are all sourced from Canva and used for book review purposes only.
About the Author
I’m an emerging author. I was born just outside of Marseille, France. Since 2007, I’ve been based in leafy Oxfordshire, UK with my family.
After spending most of my working life as a Marketer, educating consumers about the wonders of toilet fresheners, laundry conditioners and whiteboards, I finally decided to put pen to paper to write “stories” of a different kind. Between school pick-ups and whilst also looking after my adorable toddler (who has yet to find a bookshelf he wouldn’t climb), I eventually finished my first book, Of Magpies and Men.
If you’d like to connect with me, I would love to hear from you. Just drop me a line on: https://linktr.ee/OdeRay
Of Magpies and Men by Ode Ray
Kindle Edition, 330 pages
Expected publication: February 2nd 2021
Edition Language: English
Genres: Contemporary | Fiction | Mystery | LGBT