Review: Wild Beauty - Anna-Marie McLemore
Genre: Magical Realism Published: Feiwel & Friends, October 2017 My Rating: 4.5 stars
" Estrella's mother had hoped. If she named a girl for things held in the sky, how could she be tied to anything on this earth? But her mother had not freed her from their family's legacy. She had just given it the shape of stars"
Trying to review Wild Beauty is a bit like trying to describe an expensive perfume. It is extremely personal and very up to taste whether you like it or not. However, if someone ask you to describe why you like it you end up struggling to express yourself. I personally love my perfumes and when thinking about it, this story has more aspects that remind me of a good perfume. Yes, this sounds cheesy AF, but hear me out here.
Plot and atmosphere Like any good perfume this story has pretty much three layers. The top notes are the first you experience, but last the shortest. They are usually distinct and sweetly fresh and draw you in. Wild Beauty does this with its imagery and setting. It starts by painting pictures of lush gardens and women who bloom flowers from their hands. It shows us a family in a seemingly paradisal setting but already hints at what is underneath. Basically the start of the story feels like the cover looks. Beautiful and idyllic. If you are into botanica, gardening or flowers, this may already be enough to draw you in. For me personally, the description of the different plants added a layer of nostalgia. My mother used to be a biologist, and used to teach me all about plants and flowers as a child, before she died. Now, years later, I still cherish the memories of us spending time outside together, looking for some particular plant in a field of flowers. This is obviously a very personal experience, but Wild Beauty really brought back those memories for me. The second layer of a perfume are the heart notes. They are (as the name suggests) the heart of the scent and last a little longer. They are usually floral, a little deeper and less light than the top notes. At the heart of Wild Beauty is the story of love and loss. Not only romantic love, but also the love for family and friendship. If you are afraid of this book being too much romance for you; I personally have a very low tolerance for cheesy romance and I was fine reading this. To me it was more about the family, their relationships and their history. Which brings me to the third layer: the base notes. Basenotes are musky or woody and more raw then the other notes. They linger however, and they are what you carry around with you, long after you have left your perfume bottle behind at home. (see where I am going with this). The basenotes of wild beauty are the tragic legacy and the dark family secrets that the Nomeovides carry around. The tragedy that lies (literally) buried beneath the soil and requires the characters to get their hands dirty to uncover. This part of the story was what emotionally got to me and stayed with me even long after I had finished this book.
The writing You know how some scents are delicious, and you love them, but once you have too much of it, it gives you a headache. The only way to really, fully enjoy is, is to take it in little whiffs at the time. It was the same with Anna Marie’s writing for me. I loved it, it was creative, distinctive and technically very well done. However, I did find myself wanting to take a break every 25 or so pages, which meant it took me a longer time than usual to read. For me that was not a problem, as beautiful writing is one of the things I most enjoy in reading. However, it will be very much up to your personal preference whether this is for you or not. Recommending this book to anyone in particular is difficult, as it is such a personal experience.
What you should know before you decide: - It is magical realism (I love it, but I know it can be a turn off for some) - There is way more to the story than romance - There are LGBTQ+ characters, but they this is not the major focus in my opinion - The writing is very, very lyrical
Ultimately though, if you ask me if you will like it or not, I would answer the same as I would if you had asked me if you should buy a certain perfume. The only way is to take a whiff and decide for yourself.
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