Odette by Jessica Duchen – Magic and real life for women in the twenty first century

This is a novel of many things, life, love, folklore and a huge dollop of magic. On one level this works like an ordinary story of a young woman whose life has been difficult, but who is finding her feet. The mystical fantasy is so well done, as a girl in need seems to crash into her life. As a metaphor for the others in life, those on the outside, this is a powerful fiction which deals with identity, the important elements of a different existence, and the joy of humanity. I found this a mature and confident book, written with a lightness of touch which reflects the element of flight inherent to the story. The subtitle, “A 21st Century Fairy – Tale”, reflects the nature of a book as an adult fable, when so much of life is challenged. I was really grateful to read and review this book as part of a blog tour.

Mitzi is a young woman managing to get by on fees for writing articles and pieces for the local papers. She is living in a cheap flat filled with the books belonging to her mysterious landlord, Rob. She finds the classic tales that speak of magic and romance but is saddened by the betrayal by her one time boyfriend at a time of loss. She nevertheless worries about those around her who live on the streets, who are forced to work, and tries to help them. Her brother Harry, a struggling actor, finds fulfilment in assuming other identities. Into a window crashes a swan, and Mitzi discovers a friend who knows nothing of life in twenty – first century Britain, who has no money, papers or clothes but who is driven to find love. The humour of this book is nicely judged as Odette, a young woman, discovers cocktails, pizza and other things that people take for granted. People make assumptions about Odette, just as they have about Mitzi, but the spells on both have to be challenged.

This is a book which combines lovely, lyrical writing with the hard facts of life, where women are judged and manipulated. It is genuinely funny, when a swan behaves as a human girl in another guise, when misunderstandings occur with modern life. So many elements of beauty, music and stories shine through, even when progress seems impossible. The ending is really exciting, and revelations are significant. I really enjoyed the writing style, where Mitzi is a young woman with real concerns and yet the magic of the story shines throughout the book. This story really works in its unpredictability and its subtle blend of magic and reality. The writing really kept me turning the pages as I was really eager to discover what would happen next to characters I engaged with easily. This is a genuinely well written book which succeeds in so many ways; fantasy, realism and a good grasp of what makes people tick, with subtle references to those people who get stuck without hope. A beautiful book, I can really recommend it as an absorbing read.

So we have just sung our final choir concert for this year, and it actually got warmer while we were in the church! Our Christmas tree is finally up, and cards received on display (I said we would need more Blu Tac!), and I have bought a cake from a friend. I’m only doing one service tomorrow, so a bit more restful than some Sundays. This is my final blog tour book for this year, but I have plenty more books to review (and wallow in) so watch this space – Northernreader keeps going during the festive season!