Twelve Books Challenge: The Gracekeepers

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We’ve been scanning our bookshelves (and flicking through our e-readers) with a slight feeling of guilt here at The Young Women’s Movement. The pile of books to read has been gradually building, with the odd avalanche dictating the construction of a second pile. Shiny new hardbacks and charity-shop finds have been alike neglected, as we wait for spare time… while browsing the internet for interesting feminist articles and photographs of hedgehogs in cupcake cases, and binge-watching OITNB. And obviously, there’s nothing wrong with this.

Six baby hedgehogs curled up in cupcake tins, one in a measuring cup, with a larger hedgehog in a glass measuring jugBut we’ve realised that in those discarded volumes are whole worlds, and we’re missing out on some seriously excellent reads.

This year, we’ve resolved to change this: the team will be reading and reviewing twelve books by women over the course of the year. We’re excited. We’ve set up a Goodreads page where you can see what we’re reading. We’d love to hear your suggestions for books – pop us a message at @youngwomenscot on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. And if you’ve read any of these, or are inspired to write your own reviews, do let us know your thoughts.

The lovely Ceris Aston, our Information and Publications Officer, has generously offered to do the first review:

The Gracekeepers, by Kirsty Logan

Reviewed by Ceris Aston

Sometimes you find a book that takes a hold of you – where life outside the pages can be dismissed as a trivial distraction, until you find yourself running from the house with still-wet hair, toast in hand, packed lunch waiting by the fridge where you left it. Because just five more minutes became just fifteen, and then just another five…

These books feel realer than real life, when you’re in them. And when you finish you wish that you could unread them, so that once again you could read them for the first time.

I’ve only read a handful of books like these. Most recently was Kirsty Logan’s The Gracekeepers. The Scottish author’s first novel, The Gracekeepers is a beautifully written, evocative work of fantasy – though far from featuring the swords and sorcerers that the genre so often conjures.

It is the story of two young women on a world that is mostly water, where land is a scarce and precious resource and where life is dangerous and uncertain. North lives on a floating circus, a dancing bear her only friend and protector. Callanish is a Gracekeeper, laying the dead to rest and setting the terms of grief. Both have secrets that, if uncovered, would put their lives in peril. Both must negotiate a world where they did not make the rules, but where they may endeavour to rewrite them. Drawn to one another from the first instant, their relationship is an anchor in a book which sails from one character’s perspective to another, rocked by tempests.

Logan’s writing is rich with gorgeous imagery, yet her drawing of characters and scenes has a subtlety which makes each fantastical event seem commonplace. The Gracekeepers is a fantasy deeply rooted in humanity.

I go back to the bookshop, buy another seven copies, send them to far off friends. I imagine the flightpaths – to London; to Boston, USA; to Tokyo, Japan – seen from the sea.

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