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Little Wing by Freya North

Jimi Hendrix’s subtle chord progression and haunting melody sets the scene for the novel by Freya North of the same name. Similarly, the new novel sets a landscape of a beautiful flow between city and rural settings and the haunting characterisation of each of the people involved in the story. And using that word ‘people’ sits better than the term ‘character’ because these people have a realism from North that is unusual in its clarity - and in the modern context of writing it is so invigorating to read about these three dimensional people with logical and well-crafted dialogue.

Taking a seven year hiatus since her last Sunday Times Bestseller The Turning Point, North is back with a marvellous exploration of the life and times of Nell and Dougie. Both of whom are searching, and struggling with the situations that have befell them in the city. Some of their own making, some waiting to be understood. Her penchant for writing romantic novels that have a gripping premise (and the overarching theme of one finding themselves in a world that is much more than what they have known) is certainly reignited with this new offering.

The main characters emerge late in the piece of Nell and Dougie - both of whom have lived away from a childhood home in the Outer Hebrides to city life for some time but still hold a connection to the Outer Hebrides, albeit for saddening reasons. Before this point there are a number of players in the mix and it can be a little tough to decipher how the whole thing will play out. But, like pulling on a stray thread from a woollen jumper, it all unravels into a pattern of truthfulness, and family dynamics where the revelation that Nell’s mother is actually not who she thinks it is, sets into motion a journey of discovery for herself and for her family.

In the space of a few days in search of her history, Nell is able to piece together the fragments of a mother, abandoned by her family, and living as best she can as a single woman in a foreign environment. It is also here that the haunting memories of Nell’s mother reemerge for those in the tiny village who supported her in her time of struggling and growth.

The interweaving of the narratives is a stroke of masterful writing that demonstrates the literary skill of North and her ability to let a yarn develop in its own time without the pressure to push the events along. Instead, she luxuriates in the connections between characters and the way the characters do, quite clearly, come to life on the page. There are no gimmicks here, just well-crafted writing.

There is an honesty to the imagery created throughout Little Wing. Each of the sequences in the novel demonstrates a thorough understanding of how families and people come together in times of crises to work collaboratively and to bring a sense of humanity to situations. North is deftly capable of providing the kind of tear-jerking developments that leave us as readers feeling such connection with the characters that there is a strong sense of support for their plight, even from that completely disconnected position as reader and fictional novel.

In learning more about the characters, we find we learn more about ourselves and that is really the ultimate testament to the writing of one so skilled in the art of storytelling. She is able to catapult us into the narrative and allows us the insight into the world of these people, struggling with their various scenarios and desperately trying to connect dots to bring some clarity to their existence.

Overall, there is a beauty and a truthfulness to this new novel from Freya North that is fresh and invigorating in its writing that just does so many things right. The moving narrative is sure to make this a top feature of a number of reading groups in the coming months and years. A wonderful piece of writing.

Reviewer: Chris Reed

Allen & Unwin


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