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Sunday, 5 September 2010
Too Many Magpies
By Elizabeth Baines
I loved the depth of emotion in this novel. The core of ‘Too Many Magpies’ is a tale of family, motherhood and adultery; but there are deeper layers to it than that. It also talks of depression, illness and fear and different ways that people find of coping and facing the world.
One of the themes running through the story is the balance between natural and unnatural things and how we as humans respond to both, and use science to help us understand and explain them.
Another recurring theme is magpies and what they signify. Their presence in the novel is used to good effect to build up tension and give an unsettling feeling to the narrative.
I really enjoyed the writing style in this book. Elizabeth Baines uses beautiful language and exquisite and well-chosen imagery. Every line in the novel is well balanced and well placed and adds to the elegance of the whole.
In particular, the way she talks about food adds a vivid extra dimension to the book. On the very first page she talks of ‘the Smarties on the cake’ that ‘went frilly at the edges’ due to osmosis. This sets the scene for the clever weaving of themes to come.
This description of tomatoes is also very effective as a metaphor for a state of mind and the state of a relationship. ‘The fruits were small, turning red while still the size of marbles, pinched by the dying season, and the exhausting of their soil.’
‘Too Many Magpies is an incredibly thoughtful novel and as such will appeal as much to the mind of the reader as to the heart. I definitely recommend it as a book to lose yourself in.
Too Many Magpies is published by Salt Books and you can find their website here.
Reviewed by Helen M Hunt