Ruby’s Spoon – Anna Lawrence Pietroni

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Ruby’s Spoon is an atmospheric book with a fairy-tale feel. The story is set in a small town called Cradle Cross, famous for it’s button factory. The residents of the town are disturbed by the arrival of Isa, a strange woman who is searching for her sister. Ruby is drawn towards Isa and offers to help in the search, secretly hoping that she will be rewarded with a journey on the sea.

The majority of the book feels as though it is set in our world, but then something slightly out of the ordinary will happen; I was left wondering whether the mention of mermaids, witches and other strange events meant that it is actually set in a parellel universe.  

I loved the imagery in the book and there were some beautifully touching passages: 

“My daughter drowned before her had a birthday. My grief is here; this handkerchief. I’ve worked her letters here, fine stitches in the corner, but look at all the rest of it, this empty space that says what might have been.” “Yes, yo were blessed with grief so small that yo can keep it in your pocket. My son was fully grown when I lost him to the War. My grief is larger than a sail.”

The dialect did take a short amount of time to get used to, but after a few pages I enjoyed the added atmosphere that it gave to the book.

The plot was straightforward, but strangely mesmerizing. The bizarre nature of some scenes meant that you never really knew what would happen next. I found the ending a bit of an anti-climax, but overall it was an enjoyable read.

The book is very well written and packed with symbolism and underlying themes. The originality and depth of this book make it a perfect for a book group choice. I’d love to discuss some of the aspects of this book, so if you’ve read it please comment below.

Recommended to anyone who enjoys books which are slightly out of the ordinary.


Have you read Ruby’s Spoon?

Did the mermaid exist?

What made Isa a witch?

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  1. Stephanie says:

    I’m not familiar with this book but the passage you quoted is great.

    1. Jackie says:

      Stephanie, I loved that passage! I’m pleased that you enjoyed it too!

  2. Verity says:

    Think you liked this more than me – for me it was too much out of the ordinary. This book has had an immsense amount of publicity so I think Random House must be expecting it to win prizes. Am sure it’ll be on the orange list.

    1. Jackie says:

      Verity, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it on the Orange list either. I asked Random House (and other publishers) to send me any books that they hoped to win prizes, so that is how I ended up reading it! I wonder how many of the Orange list I’ll have read in advance, or whether the publishers will have it all wrong!

      I do prefer books based in reality, but I like the weird sometimes. I don’t think a fairy tale type book will ever get more than 4 stars from me (although I’m happy to keep trying them!) so for its genre it is doing very well!

  3. Aarti says:

    Wow, this sounds really good. I like the way you say it was “strangely mesmerizing.” And your questions at the end are really intriguing, too!

    1. Jackie says:

      Aarti, It is a shame that more people haven’t read this book. It is a great book to talk about and I have a feeling that my questions are going to go unanswered for a while!

  4. Steph says:

    This one sounds really interesting and the kind of weird, wonderful storytelling that is just up my alley! Thanks for highlighting it – I probably wouldn’t have heard of it without you!

    1. Jackie says:

      Steph, Interesting but weird is a great summary of this book. I’m sure that it will get a lot of attention in the future, but at least you can say that you heard it here first!

  5. I have this one lined up to read but I’m not exactly chomping at the bit – I think that’s just because I have too many books waiting along with it! I love books with fairy tale elements so I’m supposed I have a head start for liking it.

    1. Jackie says:

      Claire, I have a feeling that you’ll love this book, but it is a strange one so am very interested to find out! I hope you find the time to fit it in soon.

  6. Annabel says:

    Given my adoration of the Girl with Glass Feet, this one sounds right up my street. I shall add it to the wishlist.

    1. Jackie says:

      Annabel, I’ve just finished the Girl with the Glass Feet and think that if you like one then you’ll enjoy the other. Ruby’s Spoon is a lot more atmospheric and literary, but they have the same fairy-tale theme. I’d also put Tender Morsels in the same group.

  7. olduvai says:

    Reading your blog is so not good for my list of books I want to read… this sounds like another book I’m going to have to add!

    1. Jackie says:

      olduvai, Sorry to keep adding to your list! I hope you enjoy my recommendations!

  8. Sandy says:

    I think that it is saying alot that you really liked this book, with the knowledge that this isn’t necessarily the type of book you are drawn to. Hey, look at it this way…when you start to read all the Orange nominations, you will have this one covered!

    1. Jackie says:

      Sandy, I’m hoping that I’ll have read a few of the Orange nominees in advance. Reading an entire list like that is very daunting, so it is nice to get as many as possible under my belt before they are revealed. Whether I have any success in that aim is another matter!

  9. Alyce says:

    The strangeness of the story appeals to me, but I don’t know if I would be able to stand the dialect. I think it might just drive me crazy.

    1. Jackie says:

      Alyce, I got used to the dialect very quickly, so don’t let that put you off.

  10. Stujallen says:

    looks good this book ,know there is a lot of buzz about it ,not sure if mermaids excisted think it is just folktales pasted down

    1. Jackie says:

      Stujallen, The book implies that there was a mermaid existing in the 1930s. I wonder if people who’ve read the book thought that there was a mermaid? Hopefully all that book buzz will mean more people will read it soon and let me know their thoughts!

  11. Satu says:

    I think mermaids and witches are a plus, so this might be a book for me!

    1. Jackie says:

      Satu, It sounds as though it might be! I hope that you enjoy it.

  12. Beth F says:

    Sometimes I like dialect, sometimes not. I think I’d check this out from the library before buying.

    1. Jackie says:

      Beth, Dialects don’t always work, but they do in this book. I hope your library has a copy.

  13. This book sounds beautiful. Hadn’t heard of it before, but there’s something about that quote that grabs me.

    I normally do enjoy a bit of dialect filtering into the book, otherwise occasionally it can sound very universal and generic. Think Out was an example of that…

    1. Jackie says:

      anothercookiecrumbles, It is beautifully written. It is a shame that the story isn’t better, but I think it is worth reading for the atmosphere alone.

  14. For me, there was nothing that firmly made the witch and mermaid real, but it was interesting how the mere suggestion of these fairy-tale elements coloured the whole story. I had to keep reminding myself that the village people talked about these things as if they were real, but nothing in the narration said that they actually were.

    1. Jackie says:

      Lija, I know! So much of the book was so realistic, but the tiny mention of a few mythical things led me to question the setting of the entire book. I’m still a bit confused, so hopefully someone will let me know their thoughts on it soon.

  15. Andreea says:

    Hmm, this book sounds great. I’ll add it to my never ending wish list!

    1. Jackie says:

      Andreea, I hope that you enjoy it!

  16. Violet says:

    wow…I really want to read this book. It sounds like something I would love, I’m in for anything with a fairy-tale setting.

    1. Jackie says:

      Violet, I really hope that you enjoy it!

  17. Jim says:

    I loved this book. The characters really grabbed me and took me through the dark, grimey, dingy indutrial 30’s Black Country with a lightness and ease of touch that I didn’t expect or even think possible. I wasn’t looking forward to the dialect as I’m not the biggest fan of Black County-speak! however, not only did it not bother me but I really enjoyed it. I read the book over a rare free weekend and felt bereft at finishing it, it left me wanting more and I missed the characters – it is a book I shall certainly re-visit in a few weeks. I’m not clever enough to know if the mermaid is real or not but in the telling of the story it didn’t make any difference to me. This is a truely magical read that flies way above the mundane yet is grounded in real-life experience and allowed me to build a relationship with the characters. I can’t recommend it highly enough and can’t wait to read other books recommended in this thread.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jim, Thanks for commenting on my blog for the first time! I am really pleased to know that you enjoyed this book.

      I thought the dialect was fantastic and I felt that it really added to the believability of the story.

      If you enjoy books with a fairy-tale feel then I recommend you try Tender Morsels next. It is a bit darker than this, but I think that the two have a similar feel. I hope you enjoy it if you decide to read it.

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