Saturday, May 26, 2012

Review: The Returning by Christine Hinwood



The ReturningThe Returning by Christine Hinwood

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


5 stars for quality, 3 stars for personal enjoyment.
The Returning isn't a book I would normally choose to read, because a) I try to avoid historical fiction as much as I can; and b) as a former literature student, I've read my fair share of literary fiction and, unless it was written by Coetzee, I have no desire to read any more in the next five years or so. Historical + literary usually means I'd rather eat dirt, thank you very much. However, this isn't just any book. Aside from being a Printz Honor, it was blurbed by both Megan Whalen Turner and Melina Marchetta. Here's what they wrote:

”I loved this novel. I cried through the whole last chapter from the sheer beauty of these characters and their world.”
-Melina Marchetta, author of Jellicoe Road, Printz Medal winner

“A beautiful examination of the complexities of love and loyalty in the aftermath of war.”
- Megan Whalen Turner, author ot The Thief, Newberry Honor winner


Obviously, with words like that, these two could persuade me to read a math textbook and actually enjoy it. And I did enjoy The Returning for the most part. The beauty of its prose, the skillfully crafted web in which so many characters were entangled, the extraordinary use of language – outdated to enhance the historical feel, but slightly alien to match the non-existent land… all those things were even better than I expected. And yet, Hinwood didn’t quite reach me on an emotional level, not like an author endorsed by Marchetta and Turner should have.

The residents of Kayforl in Downlads are living a quiet, hardworking life. Several years earlier, six healthy men marched to war against the Uplanders, but only young Cam Attling, who looks suspiciously like an Uplander himself, returned. Their former enemy is now their new Lord and nobody failed to notice how highly Cam Attling speaks of him.
Cam Attling hasn’t really been welcomed back by anyone but his family and his best friend Ban who is hopelessly in love with him. He’s lost an arm in the war and he suffers from survivor’s guilt, but he is unable to settle down. His betrothal to young Graceful Fenister was broken by her father and Cam feels useless and unaccepted, even by Ban.
Ban is struggling with his feelings for Cam and his responsibility towards his large family. He is worried that his brothers are right and that Cam really is a bad influence, but he is unable to stay away.
As Cam leaves Kayforl for the second time, he causes more pain and heartbreak than he could ever have imagined.

The Returning clearly isn’t for everyone: it requires a lot of patience and it has to be read slowly, carefully, to truly appreciate all the layers, the beauty and the heartbreak it has to offer. I’m very glad I decided to read it and I might even reread it at some point. I'm convinced it will be even better the second time.

A copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher via Netgalley for review purposes.


18 comments:

  1. Sadly, I didn't fall in love with this one in spite of the MM-MWT recommendation. I agree that it's beautifully-written but I found the pacing slow as well. Still, I'm glad I read it because I was curious about it.

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    1. It's entirely possible that our expectations were a bit too high.

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    2. How can they not be when the book is recommended by two of our favorite authors? :P

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  2. Hi Maja!
    Wonderful review! This sounds like a book that is amazing but not perfect for everyone. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!
    I sometimes find it hard to relate to all historical fiction too, but i have found historical fiction that i enjoyed like Grave mercy.

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  3. Although you didn't enjoy it to the fullest extent, this book definitely sounds promising, especially after praise from someone like Melina Marchetta. I can see why that would have convinced you to give this a shot. Great review, Maja! :)

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  4. Fab review Maja. I don't know if I'll pick it up. Slow pacing and historical fiction are phrases that strike fear into me. Although, like Rachel, I really liked Grave Mercy. :)

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  5. This book sounds like such a heartrending story! I read some Historical Fiction and enjoyed it, so this one definitely worth a check in Goodreads. :) With all the praises, it's simply impossible not to get our hopes up! This seems like the kind of book I'm going to enjoy in the right moment. Absolutely beautiful review, Maja! ♥

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  6. I love historical fiction and think this is something i would enjoy. You cracked me up with your opening paragraph!!!

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  7. I haven't seen an overwhelmingly positive review of this yet, for all glowing blurbs and awards it received. It does sound like something I might like but I just don't know! Thanks for giving me a lot more information to go on, though. Your review was really helpful!

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    1. I'm not really sure, but I think you of all people might really love this. It doesn't have much in common with As Meat Loves Salt, and yet the feeling is similar.

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  8. I like that approach, one rating for quality and one for personal enjoyment. I might end up "pagiarizing" it on my most difficult cases!

    Anyway, I understand completely how you'd have chosen to read the book. Marcheta's Froi has convinced me to read anything she says should be read -- I recall doing this with a George RR Martin comment... it wasn't even a blurb, just a comment he made. Thankfully, it worked for me (how do you feel about Tolkien and the Lord of the Rings? If you liked it, I've got a suggestion for you, mwhahahaha) but I get that some books need a special mindset to be enjoyed.

    Still, at least it was a good book ;) Great review, Maja!

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  9. This is definitely not a book for me. I tend to dread reading wordy and slow books, because I love fast paced novels, but I'm glad you liked it enough! The quality of the book and the beauty of the prose do sound amazing, though. Amazing review, Maja, as usual! :)

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  10. Never heard of this book before Maja but it does sounds terrific. Thanks for sharing i wil have to check this one out. Great review.

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  11. I'm not a huge historical fiction fan either, but like you said any authors whose work I adore would easily be able to convince me to pick it up! However I don't think this book is for me, I'm such an impatient person that I probably wouldn't be able to stick it out! But I'm glad you enjoyed it, even though it isn't your typical read either!

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  12. I know I would appreciate the depth and the amazing writing, but I just can't read another depressing book right now. I am needing sunshine and warm weather and not getting it and have already been feeling gloomy and this would kick me into the gutter. One day I will check it out!

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  13. Damn. Looks like this one needs to go on my to-read list. Though at the moment, I'm a little burned out on literary fiction. I just got my Bachelor's degree in literature, and I'm going to be working on my Master's this fall. Maybe later...Lol.

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  14. Wow, what an amazing review! Like you, I didn't really think this would be my kind of book at first because I'm not a big historical fiction reader (although I really want to change that)!. But it sounds like such a heartbreaking story -- and how can I resist a book blurbed by MM who everyone seems to love? Those things always get me LOL! x)

    Amazing and helpful review, Maja! This book msy not be for everyone, but your honest review just helped me add this to my TBR pile! :) <3

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  15. This sounds like realistic fantasy. Is it really historical fiction? Or is it something like Finnikin/Froi? Even though I haven't read any great reviews for this yet, I am still really curious about it.

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