October, October by Katya Balen, illustrated by Angela Harding.
In the interests of full disclosure, I should mention that I was very kindly sent a copy of this by Bloomsbury.
However, I had already bought both a physical copy (knowing nothing about the book and based solely on Angela Harding’s beautiful cover) and an e-book version (having started it and not been able to put it down when I went up and down stairs to Peapod each eve)
So, yes, I was technically gifted a copy, but I think the fact that I’ve also bought two copies for myself should prove that both a) I loved this book and b) I’m being honest about just how much!
I really couldn’t put this down. The contrasting settings of woodland and town were vivid and real; I felt like I was being granted a glimpse of a secret, wild world both raw and beautiful in the woods, while I saw the claustrophobic bustle and noise of the city through fresh eyes as they overwhelmed October.
October has just turned eleven and has grown up living ‘wild’ in the woods with her dad. She loves their life and the nature that surrounds her.
I loved reading about their life – seeing how they embraced it with autumn dips in freezing waters and fires outside looking at the stars; how they cared for the wood, striking a balance between respecting its natural, wild ways and tending to it to keep it alive and growing; the little details and practicalities of life there. Katya Balen does a fantastic job of portraying a life both demanding and cosy, hard but rewarding.
However, October’s life as she knows it is brought crashing down when she is forced to move to her mum’s London terrace when her dad is hospitalised after an accident.
October hasn’t spoken to her mum since she left when October was four, despite her mum’s best efforts, and seeing October grapple with both city life and living with a parent she wants nothing to do with, that she feels abandoned by and resentment towards, is an incredibly difficult but believable read.
October is such a fantastic character and I really felt myself in her shoes as she’s runs the gamut of emotions. Incredibly moving, there were times my heart ached for her, but just as many moments of sheer joy; she was truly fantastic to read.
This is a book about growing, adapting and overcoming, about finding hidden treasures in unlikely places, about letting go and learning to fly.
It is an absolute gem of a book, with stunning illustrations from Angela Harding and I cannot recommend it enough.