Why you might connect with this story:
- It’s a coming of age story for two girls who live very different lives, told in equal intertwining parts.
- The stories theme concentrates on friendship and trust triumphing over loneliness and confusion.
- The tale concentrates on the girl’s attempts to control their own destiny instead of succumbing to the wishes of the men around them.
- It’s got a floating circus, a dancing bear, mermaids, pagans, and endless ocean in a world which could be our own.
The sea has flooded the earth. North lives on a circus boat, floating between the scattered islands that remain. She dances with her beloved bear, while the rest of the crew trade dazzling and death-defying feats for food from the islanders. However, North has a secret that could capsize her life with the circus.
Callanish lives alone in her house in the middle of the ocean, with only birds and fish for company. As penance for a terrible mistake, she works as a gracekeeper, tending the graves of those who die at sea. What drove her from home is also what pulls her towards North.
When a storm creates a chance meeting between the two girls, their worlds change. They are magnetically drawn to one another, and the promise of a new life. But the waters are treacherous, and the tide is against them.
Why I enjoyed the story: I received this book as a Proof Copy when I attended an event at Foyles Bookshop in London. Isn’t the cover gorgeous?! I’m disappointed that they don’t seem to have kept it for the official release in May but it doesn’t change the lovely story within.
Having already enjoyed the circus themed story The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern I was excited when The Gracekeepers fell into my lap as it combines the adventures of a circus with my love of water. I really enjoyed the imagery of this water filled world where circus performers and religious reformers are all in boats competing for the attention of islanders, while the dead are ‘buried’ in a watery grave marked by bird cages. The fairytale elements of the underwater people – possibly mermaids/mermen – added to the surreal quality of the world but it didn’t take away the possibility that this could be a glimpse of our own world in the future.
The two main characters were both different enough that you never confused them, which I find can sometimes happen in a novel told from multiple perspectives. I didn’t personally enjoy the extra perspectives that were occasionally added, as I felt they could have been told in another way which didn’t break the story’s flow, but the information that it imparted was useful in understanding what was happening.
It was refreshing to have a coming of age story that concerned itself with friendship instead of romantic love. We see many different types of romantic (and not-so-romantic) relationships but both of the main character’s hearts are removed from it all despite neither of them being uncaring. I enjoyed this portrayal as despite the fact that neither girl felt powerful, they still had enough sense of self to know what they did and didn’t want and to stick by those convictions.
You might be interested in reading the short story about Callanish – The Gracekeeper – that provided the basis for the novel.
Have you read this story? What did you think?Would you recommend this post?