The Gifts by Liz Hyder – Blog Tour Book Review

About the Book

For fans of The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock and The Doll Factory, The Gifts is a Victorian-esque epic novel that tells of the pitfalls of ambition and the beauty and struggles of womanhood. It is a gripping and ambitious book told through five different perspectives and set against the luminous backdrop of nineteenth century London. It explores science, nature and religion, enlightenment, the role of women in society and the dark danger of ambition. In a society that dictates how women should live, what happens when they start to break out of the mould created for them…

‘Come Etta, she says to herself. Come. Open your eyes. Whatever it is, the worst must surely be over. Wrung out and exhausted, she edges slowly to her feet, wobbles as she comes to stand. But she has no need to turn her head. The sun emerges from the clouds above, stretching Etta’s shadow far in front and taking her breath away with it. It is impossible. It cannot be……’

October 1840. A young woman staggers alone through a forest in Shropshire as a huge pair of impossible wings rip themselves from her shoulders. Meanwhile, when rumours of a ‘fallen angel’ cause a frenzy across London, a surgeon desperate for fame and fortune finds himself in the grips of a dangerous obsession, one that will place the women he seeks in the most terrible danger.

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About the Author

Liz grew up in London and was a member of the National Youth Theatre for four years before studying Drama at Bristol University. She worked at the BBC’s publicity department for six years on everything from EastEnders, Holby City and Casualty to Radio 4 before going freelance. Since then, she’s been the Film Programme Co-Ordinator at Hay Festival and worked on numerous PR campaigns for books, theatre, festivals and events. She runs creative writing workshops for all ages and is on the board of Wales Arts Review. She lives in the medieval market town of Ludlow in South Shropshire, surrounded by books and plants. She is an aspiring gardener, an amateur naturalist and a keen walker of hills. Follow Liz on Twitter / IG: @londonbessie

Liz Hyder burst onto the literary scene last year with her acclaimed YA novel Bearmouth (Pushkin Press), which won both the 2020 Waterstones Children’s Book Prize for Older Readers and the Branford Boase Award 2020. It was named a Book of the Year 2019 by the Financial Times, The Observer, Daily Mail, The Guardian, The Sunday Times, New Statesman, BBC Radio 4 Extra and was hailed overall Children’s Book of the Year by The Times, who also predicted Hyder would ‘become a household name’. Bearmouth has sold in multiple territories across the world, and a film adaptation is currently in development with Binocular Productions.

What I Thought

Woah. This book packs a punch. 

I will first share some trigger warnings for: animal (dog) cruelty (aka not one for my friend Jay), dissection, surgery, infertility, narcissism and all of the patriarchy. 

This is an historical tale with a modern feminist outlook and a soupçon of magical realism. 

It is told from the perspectives of five different characters. Etta, Natalya, Mary, Annie and Edward. The story alternates between them with very short chapters which aids with pacing and helps to keep you reading. There was some head hopping within these chapters which did take me out of the story a little at times in order that I could double check whose perspective we were with. 

I read an ARC but am intrigued to see the illustrations alluded to in the final copy – Annie is an artist and Edward also likes to document his discoveries. 

One of the reasons given for potential infertility was “Reading too Much.” Not going lie that line hurt. But it also reminded me of the list of ridiculous reasons that women were put into asylums. Be you not meek and docile you are a threat to patriarchy! 

The male characters in this were mostly (with a notable exception) fairly rotten; in particular Edward and his colleague. The inhumanity shown in an early amputation scene which was completed as a display of who was fastest and not who was safest was only the start of the cruelty shown. Just because ‘man’ can do something doesn’t mean we should. It might have well been penis measuring or shooting rockets into space or starting an unnecessary war! Edward reminded me of Frankenstein and this book had a  gothic slant. Morality, religion and science were themes explored throughout. 

All in all this book is sumptuously written and realised but it did bite a little close to home at the moment. 

The female characters were all unique and you root for them and there is enough hope to cut through the disturbance. 

However, if you like your books neatly wrapped up with all questions answered – such as why the women grow wings – then you may not be as keen on how thus story concludes, but if you are in the mood for a challenging and dynamic read then pick this up and allocate time to dissecting it (pardon the pun). 

Thank you to Tracey at Compulsive Readers and the publishers for the gifted copy for the purposes of an honest review.

Check out the rest of the blog tour by following #TheGifts

Posted on February 25, 2022, in Book Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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