Cala by Laura Legge
A brilliantly original coming-of-age story from a new and powerful literary voice. Perfect for readers of Sophie Mackintosh’s The Water Cure and Daisy Johnson’s Everything Under.
Cala, a stone farmhouse on the edge of a village in the Outer Hebrides, is home to four women – witches the locals say – who scratch out a living on its land. But after ten years of relative harmony, fractures are beginning to appear among them.
Eighteen-year-old Euna is tired of Cala’s rigid hierarchy and arbitrary rules – the women must wear plain dress, attend strict rituals and consume only what they grow or gather with their hands. Sick of scavenged seaweed and thin soup, Euna decides to go in search of a different way of living.
You know those books wherein everything works perfectly within the context of the book but nothing really touches you? Have you ever had that feeling? I am sure you have had it at some point and with this book, I got the same feeling.
“Fear had such a loud way of speaking. Maybe all of these acts had been tender, plucking the plant, striking the flank, and the violence had not in Muireall’s hands but in Euna’s mind.”
The novel starts with the island called Pullhair in Outer Hebrides and it is very, very atmospheric and when you read it, it’s almost as if you are there feeling every weird thing that Euna is feeling and that is one of the major plus points of the book, if I am being honest. Of course, even that didn’t quite work out the way I had hoped for.
Euna hasn’t always lived at Cala, she used to live in the outer world but the outer world didn’t understand her or want her and so she came to Cala. From the time she was seven, Cala is all Euna has known, with its residents loving and hurting at once and its history of it being a witch’s house. Euna has had questions over the years as she grew up but at eighteen, her questions are bursting out of her at any given moment and disturbing the entire household. The fact that this is set in contemporary world should have only enhanced this almost magical way of living but sadly, it really didn’t.
Perhaps I was mistaken into thinking that this story would be very atmospheric from its blurb and in a certain way, it was atmospheric but not in the way presented in the blurb. There’s the question of Euna being the main character. Even though she seems to be, there are other characters given more importance, then to top it off, in between with their personalities changing, it made for a confusing read for me. I fear to even talk about Aileen, I might not end up being favourable at all so, you can read the book to experience that. I wish Aram’s story wasn’t done in the way it was, sure it helped the plot along but that didn’t mean that it was the best course of action.
I did enjoy the fact that one of the major themes of the book was female relationships and how they were presented in a realistic way. These four women did love each other in their own way but there was no shortage of hate or dislike as well, they did spend an awful lot of time together and it showed in their almost there but not quite hate. I think overall, this book is beautifully written but none of that grabbed me or touched me in a way that made me invested in the characters and their journeys.
I am so sorry this review is all over the place (basically a mess) but even after almost a week of finishing it, I am not able to place my thoughts in a good way. I gave this one three stars and they are totally deserved, I just wish I was able to be more invested in the book.