I first saw Cala on Bookstagram, where it’s lovely cover immediately caught my attention, which led to me checking out the book properly. After I saw that it was published by Head of Zeus, whose previous big debut, The Psychology of Time Travel, I really adored and after I saw that this was about a coven, I was immediately sold on it. You know how I love my female-centric stories and we all know I also enjoy the witchy vibes. So I was really excited to jump into this one, and I really enjoyed it.
Cala is set in Scotland, in the Outer Hebrides, and it’s a story that starts and circles back to a coven of four women in a small town, living in a place called Cala, or the haven, but that the rest of the residents call Gainntir, the place of confinement. We follow Euna, one of the women of the coven, who starts to rebel against the rules that confine the women there.
First of all, this was really beautifully written. Laura Legge has this really distinct and atmospheric writing style that is really imposing and it’s really memorable. The way this was written really fit the story well, and I absolutely loved the way she wrote this story. The writing style is by far my favorite thing about this novel, and I am so excited to see what Laura Legge does next. I think she has a really distinctive voice and I truly think that she will do amazing things with her writing in the future. I had a hard time choosing my opening quote, so I leave you with a couple of others, so you can get a feel of her style:
“Her fear had a form, of a wave moving over her, polished and black”
“Kneeling in the dirt, she was reminded just how non-fish she was. How woman. She had all these parts, stinking, leaking parts, ruled by inner drives, never by sheer will. She was ashamed to be this creature. Though she had learned to bear the other women’s earthliness, hair under the armpits, herb stalks stuck in their teeth, she had been raised by a father obsessed with neatness, restraint. And that had yet to leave her.”
I just found the writing to be stunning and it really spoke to me and I am so glad I got to experience it.
I absolutely loved the way womanhood and female relationships and community are portrayed in this novel. We start from a coven which is ruled by very strict rules and I think the dynamic between the four women in the coven – Muireall, which is the sort of matriarch, Grace, Lili and Euna was written superbly. It was one of my favorite aspects of the novel and I wish the whole book explored this dynamic. The women love and hate each other and they resent Muireall, who is at times cruel and who shelters them from the world and other people, but they also adore and worship her. And in turn, Muireall is cruel and mean, but she is also at times kind and caring. It was infinitely fascinating and I loved reading it.
Moreover, this moves on from the coven, and we follow Euna as she leaves the coven, but we still get this really strong theme of women living together and helping each other and it’s a really powerful theme and it’s handled really well.
There’s also a perspective shift to a man in the middle of the book, which was really interesting. I quite enjoyed the contrast between the two parts and in this second part, we follow Aram, who just got out of prison, and who is important to the story and ties into Euna’s journey. I did like the perspective shift, specifically because I felt like it really contrasted the sense of community we saw in the first part with the sense of a man with a single-minded person who even with other people feels quite lonesome. So I really enjoyed that. And I loved how this book, in the end, sort of grounds itself in the concept of community and togetherness and spirituality. It was handled really well.
However, that same perspective shift left me wanting to know more of what happened with Euna and how she got to the place we see her in the second part. I felt like while the perspective shift made sense and was interesting on its own, it left something lacking for me. I felt like I did not get closure and so I was a bit detached from the second part, even though everything came together really well in the end.
And ultimately, this did not grip me fully. And that’s more of an “it’s me, not you” issue. I feel like for me to love a book, I need characters to latch on to. It’s just the way I am programmed. Whether I am reading Fantasy, or Crime or Romance, I need to love the characters because that is where I connect with books. That is where I get involved. And while this was beautifully written and explored really interesting themes and was a well-thought-out concept, I cannot get attached to a concept. And while the characters weren’t badly written, they served the concept and the themes of the novel more than they stood on their own. They did not really feel fully real and separated from the core themes, so I was really detached from them, which ultimately led to me not enjoying this fully.
I think this is a really amazing debut, with wonderful writing and great execution. And although this did not fully work for me, I would still wholeheartedly recommend this one.
I would love to hear from you! Let me know if you plan to pick this one up and let me know your thoughts on the review!
Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a finished copy of the book. All opinions stated are my own.
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