I first read The Gifts by Liz Hyder back in early July, 2021. Liz is a Ludlow based author, whose debut novel for young adults ‘Bearmouth’ was published by Pushkin Press and won the Branford Boase Award and the Waterstones Children’s Book Award for Older Readers. I had heard that Manilla was to publish her adult debut in 2022, so being a bit cheeky – a useful attribute as a bookseller – I emailed our rep and asked if there were any early proof copies available. My delight at actually receiving an early proof copy only increased as I read it (as SOON as it arrived) giddy and enthralled. What a treat! I knew immediately that I wanted it as a Book of the Month here at Booka. And I am delighted to be able to finally share it with you, our customers and fellow book lovers! I hope you love it as much as I do.

The year is 1840. A young woman staggers alone through a forest in Shropshire as a huge pair of impossible wings rip themselves from her shoulders.

What an unexpected joy ‘The Gifts’, Liz Hyder’s adult debut is. A tale of the unexplained within the everyday. Fiction set in the past, yet fresh and relevant to today; a vein of darkness within, yet wondrous and filled with hope.

Nineteenth century London is a time of change, discovery and progress. Great strides forward in understanding and knowledge being made by men of science. Yet the bright, curious and intelligent women of the age have no such freedom, no acknowledgement of their achievements.

When rumours of ‘The Angel of the Thames’ circulate London, four brilliant women – a botanist, a storyteller, an artist and an aspiring journalist – find themselves caught up in its story. In the ensuing frenzy their voices are the calm of reason and compassion. Each woman is connected in some way to Edward Meake, a prominent and ambitious surgeon, who has managed to acquire the corpse of a winged woman. Believing himself chosen by God – his angel will be the scientific discovery of the age – his pursuit of recognition and fame spirals into obsession.

This dark, quiet and compelling tale had me utterly gripped. ‘The Gifts’ touches on the beauty of the natural world, superstition and science, the lure of ambition and pride; it is also the story of four women determining their own right to be, their talents and gifts undimmed by society’s constraints.

Glorious, tender and thrilling. I loved it.

  • Ruth