I honestly do not think I have ever read a book that was so perfectly formed as Joanne Harris’ A Pocketful of Crows.
It felt lyrical, almost effortless (despite me knowing that every word was probably painstakingly picked for it to feel like that). The way the chapters followed the seasons and brought each one to life in such a unique way was really special. Every inclusion of natural lore and folk knowledge was so informative for me. I am far from an expert and found it added a lot to my own understanding.
Based on Child Ballad 295, the story itself is a timeless one of naivety and love that it is impossible to not relate to. Despite my life being so very different from that of the unnamed Brown Girl who lived free in the woods, with the power to travel into a hare or a vixen, a willow or a hawthorn, there is an essential truth in her emotional reaction to the world around her that is compelling and perceptive.
The story also had that harsh, inflexible kind of message that every true fairytale delivers with a rigid core of loss and bloody revenge. It explores identity, nature and freedom in a way that would be impossible to properly explain here. I recommend you read the novel. The ending is incredibly satisfying but far from simple.
Everything Harris has ever written is fierce and uncompromising and this felt like that distilled down into a dizzy kind of vision. A very short novel, which I read in a day, it will definitely stay with me and I feel would be worthy of repeated readings.
One final note would be that the illustrations were gorgeous and complement the story perfectly. I also really appreciated the inclusion of quotes from the original ballad and other folklore rhymes.
Harris takes you on a breath-taking journey. Yet, it is not to a new, fantasy world but rather the setting is authentically our own world, just looked at in a way you never took the time to before.