Thursday 3 September 2020

SOCIAL MEDIA BLAST: A Girl Made of Air - Nydia Hetherington

This is the story of The Greatest Funambulist Who Ever Lived...

Born into a post-war circus family, our nameless star was unwanted and forgotten, abandoned in the shadows of the big top. Until the bright light of Serendipity Wilson threw her into focus.

Now an adult, haunted by an incident in which a child was lost from the circus, our narrator, a tightrope artiste, weaves together her spellbinding tales of circus legends, earthy magic and folklore, all in the hope of finding the child... But will her story be enough to bring the pair together again?

Beautiful and intoxicating, A Girl Made of Air brings the circus to life in all of its grime and glory; Marina, Manu, Serendipity Wilson, Fausto, Big Gen and Mouse will live long in the hearts of readers. As will this story of loss and reconciliation, of storytelling and truth. 

What did I think?

As soon as I saw the absolutely stunning cover of A Girl Made of Air I knew I had to read it.  It is Nydia Hetherington's debut novel and it is so haunting and atmospheric that I got goosebumps several times whilst reading it.  I have to say that it is quite a strange book, with the story being told through journals, letters and folktales, so it took me a little while to get into it but it is well worth persevering if you struggle to connect at first.  It's also a lot darker than you might expect, so you might be disappointed if you're expecting something along the lines of The Greatest Showman; it's more like what The Greatest Showman might have been like if it was a Tim Burton film.

Although the sparkle and shine of the circus is depicted on the front cover this is a dark and terribly sad tale of an unnamed main character, known only as Mouse.  Mouse is the daughter of Marina, who dazzles the crowd by swimming with crocodiles, and Manu, the animal trainer.  Mouse might as well be invisible as far as Marina and Manu are concerned and the only affection she is shown is from the animals until flame haired funambulist Serendipity Wilson takes Mouse under her wing.

Serendipity Wilson's tales of folklore from the Isle of Man were one of my favourite parts of the book; they reminded me of the film Darby O'Gill and the Little People, although Serendipity Wilson's tales had a much darker edge to them.  Some of the stories that Mouse tells are heartbreaking and disturbing and I was so pleased that she had Serendipity Wilson looking out for her, but everything changes when the circus loses one of their own: a young child named Bunny.

Mouse leaves the circus and travels to New York in search of Bunny and when she reaches Coney Island, it really did feel like she had fallen down the rabbit hole with all those rabbity allusions.  For me, this part of the book really stood out and it seemed like Nydia Hetherington's writing became more vivid, lyrical and dreamlike as she painted such a colourful picture of a bleak and dilapidated place.  It made my heart sing to see Mouse evolving into the strong, confident woman she was always meant to be.  

Dark and disturbing in places but completely mesmerising, A Girl Made of Air is a stunning debut from Nydia Hetherington.  I think this is a book that will benefit from a re-read to fully experience all the nuances of the story and it's definitely worth picking up a hard copy for that beautiful cover alone.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

About the author:

Originally from Leeds, Nydia Hetherington moved to London in her twenties to embark on an acting career. Later she moved to Paris where she studied at the Jacques Lecoq theatre school before creating her own theatre company. When she returned to London, she completed a creative writing degree at Birkbeck. Nydia is based in London. 

Follow Nydia on Twitter: @NydiaMadeofAir

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