The First Book of Calamity Leek by Paula Lichtarowicz

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The First Book of Calamity Leek

Five words from the blurb: believe, world, constructed, books, explain

Calamity Leek lives with 11 ‘sisters’ in a large house. The garden is surrounded by a high wall and the girls are taught to fear life on the other side of it. ‘Mother’ and ‘Aunty’ impose a strict series of rules on the girls. These are explained in a book, along with a twisted version of history, which the children must learn by heart. As the girls grow up they begin to question their surroundings and the reason for their isolated life is slowly revealed.

This book was wonderfully atmospheric! The writing took a little bit of time to get used to, as the girls speak in their own dialect and have invented words for things, but once adjusted it was fascinating to learn about their life.

Aunty’s eye looked over us, and her mouth snapped open in a full-teethed smile. ‘My eye, but I’ve missed you, nieces. It shocks me to say it, but I really have.’Mr Stick went counting down the row one by one, and bounced on the belly of Adelaide Worthing. ‘But where was I? Oh yes, I was saying there’s a wonderful surprise waiting outside. Oh, but hush my mouth, I don’t want to ruin it. Chop-chop, girls, headscarves on, and out with you!’

I was gripped throughout, desperate to learn the reason for their captivity.

The book drew heavily from classic pieces of literature. I spotted similarities to  Never Let Me GoRoom and Lord of the Flies, but I’m sure there were many other literary references in there too.

The First Book of Calamity Leek wasn’t without faults – certain aspects of the plot didn’t quite add up and I was a little bit disappointed with (mild spoiler, highlight to read) the reason for their captivity. I was expecting a more profound, thought provoking revelation of a dystopian nature. But I’m willing to forgive these minor issues because the plot was so compelling. I was totally absorbed in their story, loved their debates about the outside world, and felt their conflicting emotions as they decided who they could trust. 

The structure of the book was also very clever. I admired the way that some scenes were flashbacks and these, along with the fact that certain words were given different names, meant that the reader had to work hard to decipher the truth.

The originality of the writing style was refreshing and I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for something a little different.

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17 Comments

  1. I really enjoyed this book too. I too was expecting something different (more Handmaid’s Tale) perhaps, but was pleasantly surprised by what actually happened. At the beginning it felt postively medieval, with them being in a barn with furs and straw, which added to the strangeness. A great debut.

    1. Jackie says:

      Annabel, It sounds as though we were expecting similar things. I don’t mind being wrong, but I just wish I was wrong with something a bit more special. Nevermind, it was wonderful anyway and I loved the medieval aspects too!

  2. Teresa says:

    I’ve been hovering over this one for a while and I think I’ll take the plunge and get it now!

  3. Laurie C says:

    I like your idea of giving five words from the blurbs on the book. That’s usually how I read blurbs — a few words here and there — to avoid spoilers!

    1. Jackie says:

      Thanks! I hate spoilers too.

  4. FleurFisher says:

    I can but agree. There were flaws but there was so much that was wonderful and I’d always rather see an author aim high and not quite get there than one who plays it too safe.

    1. Jackie says:

      FleurFisher, I agree. So many books are so similar and boring. It is lovely to see someone stretching the mold and even though it wasn’t quite perfect it is so much better than being part of the usual crowd.

  5. Judith says:

    So glad you loved this too!

    1. Jackie says:

      Thank you for recommending it!

  6. Sounds like a winner – we’ll let you know how we get on!

    1. Jackie says:

      I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did. :-)

  7. Charlie says:

    Good that it’s worth a read despite the flaws, it’s always great when that happens. Yours is the second review and second positive I’ve read, I’m definitely going to have to read it.

    1. Jackie says:

      Charlie, I’m hoping the positive reviews will keep building up. Enjoy!

  8. I hadn’t heard of this before. It sounds fantastic!

    1. Jackie says:

      I’m really pleased I was able to bring it to your attention.

  9. Going to add this on my list! Not one I’d usually pick, but I think I’d enjoyed the books you rated high even if they are out of my normal genre, like The Devotion of Suspect X (still yet to review!!)

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