It’s my day on the blog tour for Liz Hyder’s The Gifts, which has very recently been published by Zaffre Books. My thanks go to Tracy Fenton for the invitation and to Zaffre for gifting me a physical copy in preparation for this tour.
The Gifts is the debut adult novel from Liz Hyder, the author of Bearmouth. This is the first experience that I have had with Liz’s writing and it’s an example of one of the most carefully planned out, atmospheric and stunningly written gothic novels I’ve read. If you’re a fan of The Doll Factory, I definitely think that you would LOVE The Gifts!
Copper and bronze leaves dance around as the wind shoves at her, roars like a rushing river. She is aware of everything. Breath and heartbeat. Colour and sound. The smell of the dank autumnal air. All of it heightened somehow. More vivid, more real.
With evocative language, and a beautiful, yet hauntingly put together prose, The Gifts transports you to 1840, a time of expectation, a man’s world where male competition not only swirls around the workplace, but also when it comes to women. Set ‘In an age defined by men, it will take something extraordinary to show four women who they truly are . . .‘ as the blurb says. The dialogue comes from a doctor, Edward, whose reputation means everything to him and as he comes across this fragile creature, with the body of a woman and the wings of an angel, ambition turns to obsession. The novel touches upon gender, how women, especially during this time in history, were seen as a possession of man; something of beauty, a prize for the male gaze. The other POVs are written from three different women, Annie who is first seen as the doting wife of an upcoming doctor, one who wants to set the world alight with discovery and knowledge while his wife stays at home, see quote:
As for Annie, she will make herself brave – for what greater proof of her devotion could there be than in providing her husband with the much longed for babe in arms?
The other two female narratives are Natalya, who has been disowned by her family, cast away and surviving, for daring to be different. Then finally, we have Etta, who completes the trio of extraordinary women, who give voices to those who were drowned out by the roars of men. I enjoyed The Gifts as it stands with a cast of well developed and varying characters who were of there time, with a great feminist spin added – especially when it come to men caging women.
The wings are flesh and bone and feather, attached to her as firmly as his own arm is attached to his shoulder. How and why it is so, he does not know. It should not be possible and yet here it is.
The Gifts is the sort of book I think we need, that historical, gothic twist of literature, one that can be taught in an English Lit class that’s immersive and gripping, rather than the stale classics of yesteryear. I have yet to read Bearmouth by Liz but I absolutely want to dive immediately into it, her talent for perfect setting, well-crafted characters and choosing the era of choice, well it can’t be flawed. I loved how she’s researched so much into the subject and areas where the book is set. and there’s some cracking highlighter worthy points to be remembered, such as the following:
One of the children cries out in their sleep and Natalya feels her heart tug. This could have been her life. Children and bedtimes and stories. Washing and cooking and mending. A young family to feed and love and cherish. This should have been her life. She shakes the thought away.
A story is coming to her, one that she will save for her last night. Natalya has become fond of the three young children in the small house she has been staying in. For the past few weeks, as she worked on the nets, recovering her strength, she has told the children strange tales as they were put to bed.
She remains the only prize Edward has yet beaten Samuel to, but for now, at least, it is enough.