Reasons She Goes to the Woods by Deborah Kay Davies

 Reasons She Goes to the Woods Longlisted for 2014 Baileys Women’s Fiction Prize

Five words from the blurb: girl, secret, dark, sinister, lyrical

Reasons She Goes to the Woods is a dark story about a deeply disturbed little girl. She is violent and often escapes to the woods in order to be alone. Some reasons for her behaviour are revealed over the course of the novel, but much is left to the reader’s imagination.

The book has an unusual structure, with every chapter lasting exactly one page. The writing quality was fantastic, but I quickly became frustrated by the rhythm of the book. I found the layout distracting, my mind concentrating on this rather than becoming absorbed by the characters. If you enjoy poetic vignettes then you’ll love this experimental style, but I prefer a more conventional narrative.

No matter what she does, it’s impossible for Pearl to shake off the feeling that there’s a raw, weeping patch growing on her heart, and that someone is pressing on it. It’s not as if I care about stuff, she thinks, but tonight the burning starts the moment she lies down, and chews away until she jerks herself out of bed and runs to open the window.

Some of the scenes were disturbing, but I reached the end of the book without really understanding their purpose. They seemed to exist purely to shock the reader, something I’m not keen on.

The ambiguous nature of the text means that it will probably work well as the focus of a book group discussion, but as an individual reader I felt I gained little more than a few disturbing new images in my head.


The thoughts of other bloggers:

…disturbing and unputdownable, an uneasy but thought-provoking read.  Annabel’s House of Books

…it was so sick. Book-ish Variety

Original, offbeat, short and bitter-sweet. Amazon Reviewer



8 replies on “Reasons She Goes to the Woods by Deborah Kay Davies”

Hmm, I was interested in this one already and now you’ve intrigued me even more. “Poetic vignettes” sounds right up my street – I love, for instance, Sam Shepard’s short stories that are often more like half-page prose poems. On the other hand, I read a Canadian novel a while ago (“Santa Rosa” by Wendy McGrath) that also tried to construct a narrative using little (self-consciously poetical) vignettes seen through a child’s eyes and my response to that was almost identical to the one you have had to “Reasons She Goes to the Woods”: beautiful writing but it didn’t really add up to anything.
Perhaps I’ll give it a go if it makes the shortlist.

David, I haven’t read any of the books you mention so I’m afraid I can’t make a comparison, but I think you’ll enjoy ‘Reasons She Goes to the Woods’ for the writing alone. I wouldn’t put any money on this making the shortlist, but I’d suggest you try it any way. I look forward to finding out what you think of it!

Thanks for the link Jackie – you’re right, I like experimental structures in novels, and I love stories in vignettes (making up my own mind about the inbetweens).

I love structures that are different, but it sounds like it could be choppy with the really short chapters. I also like to be shocked, but not just for the sake of it…

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