Leaping into a new book is always a voyage of discovery. Usually you find where you are pretty swiftly, not so with the Maker of Swans. You start in a decaying stately home and its surrounding parkland in what I assume to be the 1950’s and then you think that maybe it’s a bit earlier or a bit later. In fact the time in which THE MAKER OF SWANS is set is irrelevant: you are firmly in the world of the imagination of Paraic O’Donnell and a fine gothic place it is.
Magic runs throughout the book, not the Harry Potter wand waving stuff but a deeper more elemental force. Mr Crowe, who owns the crumbling pile, bursts into the book with an attractive small time opera singer at his side. Rather unfortunately he kills a poet also enamored of the lady before the first chapter is over. Eustace his long suffering manservant clears up the mess and prepares to meet the consequences. Not those of law and order that govern you and I but the elders of the secret society to which he belongs.
Throw into the mix Clara, a girl who seems to be without parents or friends. She wanders alone around the big house and its grounds. Clara and Eustace share a special bond and it is he to whom she delivers her fantastical writings. Next onto the scene is Professor Chastern, come from the secret society to inflict punishment for the death of the poet. At this point in the novel everything that you thought you knew is turned upside down. Suddenly you are on the north Kent coast in a time before the coming of the railway.
Both Mr CW and I have read THE MAKER OF SWANS and both of us loved it, neither of us is entirely clear about what happened. Both of us have different takes on the story. This should matter but somehow doesn’t. You are taken on a wonderful rollercoaster ride which has elements of the best of Gothic and of Magic Realism. If you crave nice neat endings and a well-defined story arc then this is not the book for you. I found this an nearly impossible book to put down, as the world was so wonderful and I was so curious to know what on earth was happening. Best of all, the fantastical world has stayed with me even though the book is finished.
DISCLAIMER: I was sent an ARC by NetGalley in return for an honest review.
THE MAKER OF SWANS by Paraic O’Donnell
Published by Weidenfeld & Nicholson
Paperback £8.99, Kindle £5.99