Review: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

For years, rumours of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. She’s barefoot and wild; unfit for polite society. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark.

But Kya is not what they say. Abandoned at age ten, she has survived on her own in the marsh that she calls home. A born naturalist with just one day of school, she takes life lessons from the land, learning from the false signals of fireflies the real way of this world. But while she could have lived in solitude forever, the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. Drawn to two young men from town, who are each intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new and startling world – until the unthinkable happens. 

There’s a lot of hype around this book and I mean, a lot! It’s got a 4.6/5 rating on Goodreads, which is the highest of any book on my shelf and I’ve read a lot of positive reviews from some of my favourite book bloggers.

Where the Crawdads Sing first came onto my radar when I saw it was included in Reese Witherspoon’s book club and then announced as a new film project for her Hello Sunshine production company. Reese has recently converted some of my favourite books into TV shows, including Little Fires Everywhere and Big Little Lies. She’s also currently working on a TV adaptation of Daisy Jones and the Six, which I read in January and absolutely loved (review here, if you missed it!) So, it’s safe to say my expectations were very high.

I hate to admit it, but I found myself rather disappointed with Where the Crawdads Sing and I think it’s my fault because I’d overhyped it in my head. I thought the book was quite good, but I genuinely believed I was going to be totally blown away. Sadly, this just wasn’t the case. This is one of those books where I wish I’d picked it up without having ever heard anything about it, as I feel I would have appreciated it much more.

Delia Owens is a gifted storyteller and there were elements of the book I loved. The court case chapters in the last third of the book were a particular highlight for me and were structured perfectly. The descriptions of nature were also beautiful, albeit a little too frequent for me, personally.

I thought the author’s characterisation was brilliant – every single character was complicated, flawed and very real, which was great to read. I also really enjoyed most of the relationships within the novel, particularly those between Kya and Jumpin/Kya and Mabel. Kya was a brilliant central character and I’m always a huge fan of any book that involves a fierce female overcoming obstacles to survive on her own.

I enjoyed the very early chapters of the book but then felt the story didn’t move along quickly enough. After 100 or so pages, I almost gave up. I’m really glad I persevered, but I was expecting something more if I’m totally honest. I felt the plot had so much potential, but didn’t take up enough of the book. The descriptions of the settings were vivid and beautiful, but the plot lacked excitement and I felt more could have been done with it.

For me, this book was reminiscent of one I read in 2018 – Elmet by Fiona Mozley. I’m not sure if anybody else felt the same? Unfortunately, I much preferred the latter. Overall, Where the Crawdads Sing was a really solid story, but just didn’t live up to the hype for me. As I was reading, I felt like I was missing out on something and it made me quite sad, but I suppose you can’t love every single book you read!

GoodReads rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

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