Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens. Review
We are familiar with Tarzan and Mowgli, Romulus and Remus and even Dicky and Emmeline Lestrange in The Blue Lagoon, but Delia Owen’ gives us a new feral child in Kya.
Where the Crawdad Sings is a mixture of a novel. Part romance, part environmental plea for understanding and protection of the threatened marshlands of North Carolina and part murder mystery – solved like all good whodunnits at the very end. At its core is the story of protagonist Kya the marsh girl as the villagers call her, who initially lives with her drunken abusive father after her mother and siblings abandon. Left alone with only a diet of fish and grits (a sort of porridge) for nourishment she eventually attracts the attention of the local boys. Firstly in her kindred spirit, educator and mentor Tate and later with ‘the sneaky fucker’ Chase.
Is Kya too good to be true? What about those practicalities like dental health and childhood bugs? Can she really have only attended school once and so left reading and writing to her teenage years with Tate, before writing two books on the wildlife of the marshes? Perhaps. It certainly stretches the realms of the possible in 1950s and 1960s America. Since she is so well drawn as a character by Owens and the story so compelling we suspend our disbelief and go along with this engaging and evocative read – and learn a great deal about the wildlife of the marshes – and even what crawdads are.
The murder and subsequent trial which sweeps up Kya into a neo-Kafka-esque nightmare after the slow burn of the investigation into Chase’s death adds an extra layer which many a crime novelist would be proud of. And since this is Owens’ first novel you have to admit it’s a pretty successful debut.
Member of the Axbridge Four Seasons Book Club
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