Anne Donovan - Gone Are The Leaves (3 stars)

Anne Donovan - Gone Are The Leaves

A lyrical and poetic historical novel from the author of Buddha Da

Set in the castle of a Scottish laird and his French wife, Anne Donovan's third novel tracks the fate of two young people in the gentry's employment: Deirdre, apprentice to her seamstress mother; and Feilamort, an orphaned choir boy. With their guardians insisting they must choose their future paths, the pair make a drastic decision that leads them on separate journeys away from everything they know.

The majority of the narrative is told from Deirdre's perspective. She is a sweet, sheltered character, genuine in her joy of simple pleasures, and the reader is complicit in her frustration that she is never the master of her own fate. Fortunately other female characters are more proactive. The devout sister who accompanies Deirdre demonstrates more decisive action and clear judgement than any other character, and during one gripping incident proves herself handy with a bow and arrow.

The vernacular language that gained the author such praise for her debut novel, Buddha Da, is expertly utilised once more. Deirdre's Scots is lyrical and poetic as she describes the beauty of nature, then harsh and blunt as she relays the hardships of her journey. The plot is slow in places as Deirdre spends uneventful days travelling and pining for her mother. However the short chapters spoken by other characters reveal snippets of plotting and dark dealings that Donovan skilfully draws to a dramatic climax of cinematic proportions.

Published by Canongate on Thu 1 May.

Anne Donovan and Rachel Seiffert: Gone Are The Leaves and The Walk Home

From the bittersweet observations of modern life in Buddha Da and Being Emily, Anne Donovan strikes out in a bold new direction with Gone Are The Leaves, a historical novel about the linked fates of Feilamort, a chorister and Deirdre, a seamstress, in Renaissance Scotland. Conversely, Rachel Seiffert, who was shortlisted…

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