It was with great anticipation that I started this book, as I have always loved the Ali Macnamara books I have read, and so I had great expectations for a fantastic, warm read that I would struggle to put down. Needless to say, I was not disappointed.
Ava is having trouble sleeping but we don’t yet know what is behind her trauma. Needless to say, her nightmare is described in an incredibly realistic way; I’m not surprised she has trouble at night! This all leads to Ava making the decision to move to Bluebell Cottage, which sounds utterly idyllic and is very remote. Not much is given away early on, as to what kind of trauma has befallen Ava, but I like that sense of building up the mystery and intrigue. One thing that is clear from the beginning, is that Ava has come away to forget something. What I found very sweet was that Merlin, Ava’s rescue dog is going through a similar healing process to Ava. He ended up in a rescue centre, after bring in a car crash that killed each other. I thought it was very clever writing, the way that Ava and Merlin’s lives are kind of reflective of each other; they are both healing from some kind of trauma and they both seem to be starting some kind of new life; a kind of mutual parallel rebirth. Neither of them seemed keen to encounter any strangers – which made me overwhelmingly sad, having almost immediately bonded with the pair; the author made me genuinely care about their ultimate outcome, desperate for a ‘Happy Ever After’ for them.
The author really does a great job of layering up the intrigue with regard to what has happened in Ava’s past. Incidents like her reaction upon discovering Callum, the plumber repairing her sink, merely serve to feed the reader’s curiosity, although clearly whatever happened to Ava in the past, wasn’t pleasant. The writing was such that one was left in no doubt as to the severity of what had happened, which is a pretty impressive considering the very few clues to the incident that the reader was given. I found that I had the utmost empathy for Ava and I was glad that she had Merlin the dog for protection and company. I wondered if I saw a bit if a spark if sexual chemistry between Ava and Callum, after he mended her sink; I do so hope I was right! Another thing I loved about the book, is Ava’s joy at being able to offer Merlin a new, safe life. Her love of animals shines through. As for Callum the plumber’s secret – I certainly didn’t see that coming! I do love a genuine surprise like that!
Amongst the things I liked about this book was the imagery surrounding the wild birds in Ava’s garden. I may be seeing more into the birds then the author intended, but if that is the case, so be it. It felt to me as though the wild birds in the garden were a metaphor of Ava’s life. When she first moved in, no birds came to her bird table; Ava struggled and researched, in order to get the birds to come. It seemed that as the birds’ confidence grew and more birds came into the garden to savour the tests on offer, this confidence was reflected in parallel in Ava’s own life. I loved the way that the trees in the woods were personified and portrayed as absorbing Ava’s anxiety. What a wonderful way to deal with one’s woes! Ava’s confidence of her place within the village community seemed to blossom and grow, the longer she was around and got to know people, to the extent that she even volunteered to join the village quiz team – even if this did leave her wreaked with anxiety from the time she volunteered, until the actual quiz night.
The arrival of Lonan was a book highlight for me; astute writing at its best. It is little things like this that really lift a book above what might be expected, for me. I loved the fact that Lonan (meaning blackbird), coincided with an incident in the garden, where Merlin and Ava rescued a blackbird from the hands (or more appropriately, paws) of a local cat.
The way that Callum’s compassion towards Ava is shown is truly touching, although it’s not clear at first whether this is compassion that comes with his job, or whether he is keen on her – or a combination of the two? Regardless he seems be both cognisant of and empathetic towards Ava and her issues within a social climate.
Jemima, I found a little irritating on a couple of fronts. Firstly she seemed quite keen to get her talons into the lovely Callum, when to me he just seemed the perfect match for Ava. Secondly she was one of those nosy, probing type of people – the sort who just keep on and on with their questions (in the book’s case, about Ava’s past) and just don’t know when to stop! Her one redeeming moment was, hoovering the coining of the word Bluebellian!
This book posed a lot of questions, which I liked – they really piqued my curiosity:
What had happened to Ava to make her so jumpy?
Did Callum have a secret past?
Were birds really dropping ‘treasure’ on Ava’s bird table? (I did love the way these little treasures seemed to hold meaning). Robins had a constant role in the book – both the avian kind and the human kind. The birds seemed to show an intelligence beyond what you would eclecticism, and the boy Robin was simply a delight, in the way that he was portrayed.
Are they sending messages?
What was going on with the development plans for the village; had there been done ‘paw greasing’?
Does Colin Cuckoo have a hidden agenda? (His surname seemed oddly appropriate!)
All of these questions, and more, added to the indelible intrigue of the book for me. But the question is, will these questions all be answered in this book, or might there be a welcome sequel in the offing?
‘Enchanted’ If asked to sum up in one word how I felt about this book – the author’s writing, the story, the characters, that word would be enchanted, and the ‘Extras’ at the end of the book did nothing but cement this opinion.
To buy this book for yourself: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hope-Happiness-Bluebell-Wood-uplifting-ebook/dp/B08T1WRQ8C/ref=sr_1_1?crid=H2LM0XHAO4ZL&dchild=1&keywords=hope+and+happiness+in+bluebell+wood&qid=1625913841&sprefix=Hope+and+happiness+Bluebell+wood%2Caps%2C185&sr=8-1