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Book - Where the Crawdads Sings
Book - Where the Crawdads Sings
Book - Where the Crawdads Sings


Where the Crawdads Sing & The Giver of Stars

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I read these novels consecutively in late 2020 and was struck by the common themes and how apt they were for the challenging year we’ve had. Chief among these themes is isolation, which is explored in conjunction with social alienation and psychological distress, as well as the potentially healing power of nature and relationships.

Where the Crawdads Sing charts the life of Kya Clark who is effectively orphaned as a young girl. Living in a remote shack on the North Carolina coast, she forages for food and slowly learns to be self-sufficient, all the while growing ever more suspicious of humankind. Labelled the ‘Marsh Girl’ and the subject of gossip and terrorisation, she is pushed further and further away from society and deeper into her own head and habitat.

The isolation experienced by Alice Van Cleve in The Giver of Stars is similarly dual-natured. Moving across the Atlantic with her new husband, she quickly finds herself socially alienated, both inside her home and without. Feeling the pain of personal and social rejection, like Kya, she retreats both physically (into the mountains) and psychologically (within herself), becoming ever more subdued.

In both novels, the character’s immediate, natural environment has the power to either exacerbate or ease their feelings of isolation. Ultimately, however, both women turn to the marshland or the mountainscape for solace and comfort.

Just as important as the healing power of nature is that of companionship. Both Alice and Kya eventually rediscover the warmth, support and kindness that relationships can bring and emerge satisfied and settled.

These intertwining themes could not be more suitable for the year that we have all lived through against the backdrop of COVID-19. Both novels expose the dangers of loneliness and social isolation, while also revealing the positive effects of nature and relationships on our mental well-being.

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