Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for The Woman With Wings by James MacManus. Thanks to Hannah at Endeavour Media for inviting me to take part in the tour and for my review copy via NetGalley.
About the Book
Alison Spedding is a loner; no real friends, no boyfriend and a job in which she goes unnoticed. At thirty-two, her only passion is birdwatching.
One afternoon, high on a Scottish mountain, earnestly waiting for the rarest of sights – a white tailed eagle returning to its nest – she slips, falling silently. In shock, her fellow twitchers return to the hostel to raise the alarm, heavy with the realisation that she must be dead. What they find shocks them even more. Alison is already there, alive and unscathed…
Further similar episodes cause Alison’s grip on reality to slip, her mind spiralling towards breaking point. In her dreams she sees a huge shadow on the ground, as if there was a creature above her, a creature with huge wings…
Her infatuated colleague Jed is concerned. Can he intervene before Alison finally loses control?
This is an extraordinary novel, exploring one woman’s identity whilst posing universal questions: Who is she? Where does she belong? And must she accept her fate, or can she spread her wings and be free at last?
Format: ebook, paperback (280 pages) Publisher: Endeavour Quill
Publication date: 7th November 2019 Genre: Contemporary fiction
Find The Woman with Wings on Goodreads
I really enjoyed Ike and Kay, the author’s previous book (read my review here) so was keen to read his latest novel. I have to say The Woman With Wings could not be more different from Ike and Kay which I think goes to demonstrate the author’s creativity and versatility.
How Alison reacts to the seemingly improbable realisation that she possesses the ability to fly can be read as an allegory of her journey to empowerment and independence or as a genuine questioning of accepted reality. After all, there are many things in this world and in the universe we cannot explain.
Alongside the main storyline is a forensic dissection of corporate culture, ‘the executive game’ where the the personal and the professional often collide, and the advertising industry in particular. This is personified in Kennedy ‘Call me Ken’ Doxat, the idiosyncratic Creative Director of Foxglove, the advertising agency in whose IT department Alison works. Doxat, described as ‘a purveyor of dreams to gullible clients and creator of his own fantastic image’ becomes strangely drawn to Alison whether out of fascination, genuine affection or his controlling instincts.
Given Alison’s love of birds, I liked how certain characters are the subject of avian comparisons. For example, Alison’s IT colleague Jed is described at one point as a magpie because he’s always on the lookout for shiny nuggets of information about fellow employees. Later he’s compared to a gull, although his scavenging is through ‘digital data dumps’ rather than seaside rubbish bins.
As well as fascinating insights into the nesting and migratory habits of birds, woven into the story are subjects such as the evolutionary process (‘To fly was to survive’) and theories about the possibility of time travel. Is Alison’s belief she can fly merely a flight of fancy or is it evidence that things we think are impossible may actually not be? The reader is left to decide.
The Woman With Wings is an unusual, intriguing character driven novel with elements of magical realism which also incorporates a curious but ultimately heart-warming love story.
In three words: Strange, magical, thought-provoking
Try something similar: The Crows of Beara by Julie Christine Johnson (read my review here)
About the Author
James MacManus is the managing director of The Times Literary Supplement. After studying at St Andrews University he began his career in journalism at the Daily Express in Manchester. Joining The Guardian in 1972, he later became Paris, and then Africa and Middle East Correspondent. He is the author of several novels including On the Broken Shore, Black Venus, Sleep in Peace Tonight and Midnight in Berlin. James MacManus has three children and lives in Dulwich, London.