11 November 2020

Review: A Girl Made of Air by Nydia Hetherington

A Girl Made of Air by Nydia Hetherington book cover
* Copy courtesy of Hachette Australia *

With one of the most attractive cover designs of the year, A Girl Made of Air is the debut novel by Nydia Hetherington. 

Beginning as an interview for the New York Times, our narrator slowly begins to share her life story. The reader learns upfront she was the The Greatest Funambulist Who Ever Lived and now finds herself searching for a lost child. (Fun fact: A funambulist is a tightrope walker).

Mouse was born into a circus family but remained an outcast within the unusual circus community. Her mother and father didn't take an interest in her upbringing and Mouse was left to her own devices and withdrew into herself. When Serendipity Wilson came along, Mouse's entire world changed.

This story is told by Mouse in her later years as she reflects on her life and shares details that build towards her search for a person lost in time. In order to piece together her history, Mouse shares her memories, letters and journal entries in an attempt to pull together the story of her life. She also includes stories within stories that were felt like fables, myths and folklore. The style put me in mind of The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern and Flyaway by Kathleen Jennings; both read earlier this year.

The narrator gives us the impression of a table covered with snippets that she is crafting into a cohesive story but I found it was too piecemeal for me. I didn't find this method particularly effective and it felt a little disjointed for my liking. It'd be interesting to know if the story was 'carved up' into this style to suit the narrative or whether it was written in this style and the narrative grew up around the content to explain the various 'entries' and insertion of different material.

Adding to the disrupted flow was the lack of dialogue punctuation and the use of italics to indicate when certain characters were speaking. I know this is a popular literary device, however I'm one of those readers who struggles without punctuation for speech.

Given the circus setting, I'm sure comparisons will be made between A Girl Made of Air and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, but I haven't read The Night Circus so it didn't influence my reading experience of this novel in any way; positive or negative.

A Girl Made of Air is an historical fiction fantasy novel touched by magical realism with characters you will remember. The narrator often addresses the reader (or interviewer for whom this text is intended) directly, and I'll leave you with an example from page 318:
'Are you wondering if there's to be a happy ending? I wish I could tell you. We must find the answer together.' Page 318
If you enjoyed The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern, I think you'll love this.

You can seize this book at Booktopia.

My Rating:

Would you like to comment?

  1. Ooh this sounds interesting but the lack of proper punctuation does scare me!

    1. Thanks Krystal, you loved Flyaway so this might be right up your alley.


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