My rating: 4 of 5 stars
It’s hard, sometimes, to write about KM Peyton without descending into ‘ISIMPLYJUSTLOVEHERANDYOUSIMPLYJUSTSHOULDTOO’ and so, I’ve taken my time over this review of her latest: Wild Lily, a novel of the 1920s and beyond, and of airplanes, and of foolishness/bravery/lovelovelove. One of the most foremost reasons for taking my time, was an attempt to gain some sort of critical distance upon it. Sometimes writing about the beloved authors is difficult because it simply turns into something incoherent. Passionate, yes, but incoherently so. Passion is glorious, thrilling, but when you’re on the outside of it? A spectacle, nothing more.
And I don’t want that for KM Peyton. I wouldn’t want that for any of the authors that I write about because I write about their books to share them. One of the greatest things I believe about children’s and young adult literature is that it is for the reader, and everything I do – but everything – is to facilitate that moment of book finding reader and being read. Without the reader, we’d be nothing, and so I give myself distance because I want you to be part of this transaction. You, you, you, you’re vital. You’re powerful.
KM Peyton gets that, I suspect, and she writes outwardly; great swathes of beautiful, eloquent passages dominate this book with their almost physical urge to be read, to swell and grow out of the page and to live. This is a book about life and love, as so much of KM Peyton’s work is, and we follow the titular Lily from her youth through to old age; a life knotted together with people and animals and regret and love and wild, wild exuberance.
I found the blurb of the novel a little opaque and the opening was, I admit, slow. But I suspect a novel of this nature was always going to be slow and subtle to start, and when the narrative properly started to kick into action, I was rapt. I always am with KM Peyton because every now and then she will give me something perfect, something so perfect that I will stop and write it down or simply stare at it and will the day I get to write things like that. She captures love, I think, just love, and the great drunken infuriating joy of it, so well. Perfectly, really.
And this is such a good book, exultant in places, glorious in others, that I can forgive Peyton that slow start and the odd moment of being too deft with her narrative. I can forgive her those moments where she ties things up a little too neatly because in another breath she’ll give me the ragged edge; an unfinished moment where the story is something quite wild and quite beautiful and I feel it, I physically feel it, inside of me, always. A book of light and shade; of dazzling, dazzling light, and it is good really, it is beyond good at points, and I love her, I love her, I love her.