Published: February 17th 2022
Publisher: Manilla Press
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Historical Fiction, Gothic Fiction, Magical Realism
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this mesmerising and magical tale. Thank you to Tracy at Compulsive Readers Tours for the invitation to take part and Manilla Press for the gifted ARC.
‘Haunting, thrilling, wonderful. I loved it’ Stacey Halls
The luminous debut adult novel from the Waterstones Prize Winner, perfect for fans of The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock, The Essex Serpent and The Doll Factory
In an age defined by men, it will take something extraordinary to show four women who they truly are . . .
October 1840. A young woman staggers alone through a forest in Shropshire as a huge pair of impossible wings rip themselves from her shoulders.
Meanwhile, when rumours of a ‘fallen angel’ cause a frenzy across London, a surgeon desperate for fame and fortune finds himself in the grip of a dangerous obsession, one that will place the women he seeks in the most terrible danger . . .
THE GIFTS is the astonishing debut adult novel from the lauded author of BEARMOUTH. A gripping and ambitious book told through five different perspectives and set against the luminous backdrop of nineteenth century London, it explores science, nature and religion, enlightenment, the role of women in society and the dark danger of ambition.
In an age defined by men, it will take something extraordinary to show four women who they truly are…
October, 1840. A scared young woman is fleeing from an unknown assailant, running for her life in a dark forest when the impossible happens: a huge pair of wings rip from her shoulders and she transforms into something extraordinary and impossible; she becomes an angel.
A man finds the corpse of a woman in the Thames. But she is no ordinary woman, wings sprouting from her shoulders like an angel. The man seizes the opportunity and sells her to an ambitious surgeon who swears him to secrecy. But rumours are soon rife about ‘the Angel of the Thames’, spreading through the city like wildfire, though most dismiss it as folly. As tales of more impossible beings spread through the city, the surgeon seeks out these extraordinary women to add to his collection, seeing an opportunity to make his fortune and live in infamy. But he isn’t the only one on their trail, a would-be journalist is also seeking out these women, determined to find out the truth behind these rumours and further her writing career.
“It is an extraordinary story, he thinks, utterly fantastical and yet… could it really be that there is something to it?”
The Gifts is an enthralling gothic fairy tale. A story about girl power, self-belief and finding out who you really are set against a backdrop of the Victorian era with a little bit of magical realism woven into the narrative. Liz Hyder has crafted a novel that combines great storytelling, vivid imagery, compelling characters and authentic social history that lured me in from the first page and kept me guessing right until the last. The short, punchy chapters give the story fluidity and the five narrators: Etta, Annie, Mary, Natalya and Edward, add their own unique voices to the story as it explores themes of patriarchy, religion, science, power and social class.
“It is her first day with wings. It is also her first day as a prisoner.”
Told from multiple points of view, the varied cast of characters are richly drawn and entertaining. The four female narrators are each in a dark place and feeling marginalised when we meet them and we follow as they try to find out who they are and what their place is in a patriarchal society that doesn’t want their voices to be heard. It is a journey that will see these four strangers come together in the most unexpected of ways and I loved reading every one of them. Even in their darkest hours they are quietly determined, fierce and strong, showing a resilience that carries them through. Etta and Mary were women who pushed the envelope, going beyond what society tells them is acceptable for a woman to live the life they want, although they do this in very different ways.
Natalya has a heartbreaking story but her strength still shines through as she refuses to give up time and time again. Annie is a woman who has given up her dreams for herself to be a wife and then found herself infertile, longing for a child she seems unable to have. My heart broke for her as I know that pain; though I did laugh at the idea that reading causes blood to drain from the uterus and therefore stops a woman getting pregnant.
Though there were times I’d wish the author would allow them to push social boundaries and not rely on men even more, I did enjoy how each of these women were written. I particularly enjoyed watching Etta harnessing her rage into a power and using her intelligence to outwit the men who would try to hold her back or keep her captive.
“He smiles to himself as his lips run over the words. It will be outstanding, he thinks, and is greatly pleased – even overwhelmed – by his own magnificence.”
Though this is ultimately a story about women, it is Edward who is at the centre of the story. He is a truly fantastic villain, so brilliantly written that he made me incandescent with rage. I despised him. Edward is a man possessed by ambition, religious fanaticism and delusion; a dangerous combination that sets him on a path that merges with the four women with catastrophic consequences. After watching him mercilessly kill an animal early in the book I wasn’t surprised when he later showed no compassion towards ‘his angels’. He sees these women as merely tools to aid his ascension to greatness, possessions given to him to use in any way he desires and gives no thought for them as human beings with autonomy or feelings. He also sees his wife as an extension of himself, only there to further him socially, treating her with increasing disdain. It was disturbing to watch as his mania grew and he became more paranoid, unable to be reasoned with and only caring about his notoriety and God’s so-called plan. I was itching for him to meet his downfall.
“And perhaps the world is not ready for women such as us. Not yet.”
The Gifts is a mesmerising piece of historical and gothic fiction that will delight, enthral and enrage you. The author weaves an illuminating tale that builds to a dramatic climax as the women finally discover their power. I would recommend this book and can’t wait to read more by Ms. Hyder.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Liz Hyder is a writer, creative workshop leader and arts PR Consultant. Bearmouth, her debut for Young Adults, won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize for Older Readers, the Branford Boase Award and was named Children’s Book of the Year in The Times. The Gifts, her debut book for grown-ups, is out in February 2022.
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Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part in the tour.
Thanks for reading Bibliophiles ☺️ Emma xxx