Cover Image: Flyaway

Flyaway

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The way Jennings weaves the different experiences of the characters and presents them as good old fairytales known to the older generations was equally exciteing and eerie. It's the perfect amount of dark and chilly for this season and reading it in candle light made it even more cozy.
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Fantastic novel, can't believe it's a debut!  

"In a small Western Queensland town, a reserved young woman receives a note from one of her vanished brothers—a note that makes her question memories of their disappearance and her father’s departure."

The mix of fairy-tale menace contrasted and modern outback Australia life works far better than I would have predicted.  There are echoes of The Owl Service, The Bloody Chamber and Russian fairy tales in its pages, and throughout Jennings manages the switch between 'real' and 'fantastical' with ease.

I really enjoyed Flyaway and will definitely be first in line for her next novel!
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3/5 stars
This wasn't terrible. I loved the writing style and the tone. I just had a really hard time connecting to it. I don't know if it was overly convoluted or my state of mind. What I would say is if it sounds intriguing, give it a shot. It may work better for you. I couldn't even figure out if these were short stories or an over arching narrative. It seems to be structured like short stories, but they all felt like they tied to the over arching narrative.
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Tweeted July 28: 

🥳 Happy #BookBirthday to @tanaudel’s debut novella FLYAWAY, out today from @TorDotComPub 🎉 

🇦🇺 Australian gothic
❓ Uncertain narrator
🏚 Uncanny local events
👥 Surreal family history 

[Image of book cover attached]
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This is one of those books that I want to give two scores - four out of five (or four and a half perhaps) for the book's style and what it reaches for. Three stars for my own personal enjoyment. Some of this hit a little too close to home, having spent my school breaks in a remote part of Western Australia that aligns itself in more ways than I'd have initially imagined with Queensland.

In this book, Bettina lives in a small town that has thirteen streets, one remaining pub, one low school house block, one grocery store and has never had a bank, but has three churches. It's hot and dusty, and surrounded by bush land. Mine was much the same - a pub that was also where first aid was handled, a corner store that also handled post office stuff and petrol, one school, two churches (again, each smaller than a house), though we had a town hall that doubled as a 'library' and would be where the visiting doctor would set up shop.

Above all else it's the small town mentality that's shown in the book - everyone knows everyone's business and everyone is either too helpful or gives their opinion too freely. In Flyaway, Bettina lives with her mother after her father and brothers left some time ago. She considers her responses to her mother, hides what she needs to, runs away from most interactions because she has her mother's accusations at the forefront of her mind why so-and-so should be avoided.

Until Bettina comes to realise that perhaps everything she's believed in (or ignored) up until now, and starts to look into what really has happened around her. Bettina reunites with two friends she lost along the way - Gary and Trish, and together they start to delve into her family secrets.

This is Australian gothic right up there with Kaaron Warren, Angela Slatter and Lisa L. Hannett, Kim Wilkins, and other common names we see on the Aurealis shortlist. If you've been Jennings' artwork then you know exactly what you're in for with her writing - whimsy and intricacies.
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While I'm a fan of the author on Twitter, this book didn't work for me. Still, others might like the way the story gradually unfolds on the Australian landscape..
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Flyaway is this strange breed of magic and a gothic fever dream. Set in a small town in a Western Queensland, nothing is as it appears. Myth and magic exist side by side and you can almost feel the heat of the Australian summer coming off of the pages.

At first when I started the book I didn’t think I was going to like it. I’m so glad I persisted however, because I ended up not being able to put it down. 

It’s not the kind of book that fits into one genre or description; I’d find it hard to say “it’s like this or that book/author”, and I actually really love that about it.
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Good grief, this was a slog. I basically skimmed all the way to the end because it was just brutal to read the details, but I wanted to understand the mystery. The payout wasn't worth it. As many other reviewers have pointed out, the characters are portrayed so shallowly that it's impossible to form an emotional connection. It felt like a variety of myths were stitched together badly and the setting never seems to make any sense.
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Part gothic thriller and fairy tale. Bettina starts to question her memories when she receives a note from one of her missing brothers in the mail. It starts a quest to find the truth of the past and perhaps the enchanted history of the small Western Queensland Australia town she calls home. It’s creepy and lovely. Fans of Kelly Link, Karen Russell, and Seanan McGuire take note.
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Flyaway by Kathleen Jennings is a novella from an Australian author whose short fiction I have previously enjoyed. She is, perhaps, most well-known for her artwork, including book covers such as the one for Flyaway, among others.

In a small Western Queensland town, a reserved young woman receives a note from one of her vanished brothers—a note that makes question her memories of their disappearance and her father’s departure.

A beguiling story that proves that gothic delights and uncanny family horror can live—and even thrive—under a burning sun, Flyaway introduces readers to Bettina Scott, whose search for the truth throws her into tales of eerie dogs, vanished schools, cursed monsters, and enchanted bottles.

In these pages Jennings assures you that gothic delights, uncanny family horror, and strange, unsettling prose can live—and even thrive—under a burning sun.

Going through the tags for this review, I couldn't not include "Australian gothic". This book is a tangle of fairytales brought by settlers into the unique Australian landscape, all of them twisted and variously creepy. Flyaway is, above all, a story composed of many other stories, told as flashbacks or asides. The layers are slowly peeled back as our unreliable narrator, Bettina Scott, slowly learns more of her recent past and starts to realise what she's forgotten.

The fact that part of the story is told as Bettina's memories unfurl means that we come at the main story — for lack of a better term, I mean the story most important to Bettina — from an oblique angle. We know something strange has happened, but the pieces don't come together until very close to the end. But in the meantime, Jennings keeps the reader entertained and/or horrified with the extra stories peppered throughout the narrative.

I recommend Flyaway to readers who like weird narratives and who don't mind feeling creeped out by the bush or western Queensland. I think non-Australian readers will also find much to connect with in this book, since a lot of the fairytales are recognisably based on European folklore, despite the strong presence of the Australian landscape in the book.

4 / 5 stars

First published: July 2020, Tor.com
Series: No, I don't think so
Format read: eARC
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
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Flyaway is set in a small Australian town where everything feels just a little bit off. Our protagonist Bettina may as well be right out of a Shirley Jackson novel - strange, insular, and with a mysterious familial history. After receiving a mysterious letter, she sets out on a quest to find out what happened to her missing brothers. The resulting story reads like a fever dream, and that's not entirely a bad thing. While some of the prose feels a bit clunky, the overall story has an uncanny feel that is sure to appeal to anyone looking for a bit of creepiness in their literature. Although this book was originally described to me as fantasy, I'd be more inclined to call it a gothic horror.
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Told with a quiet sense of uncanny, this novella manages to tie lush prose and normalcy into one unsettling package. And as the mystery unfolds things get more and more bizarre. 

Honestly, I really enjoyed this novella, there was just enough of the uncanny to set my teeth on edge. And even in the beginning, I was waiting eagerly to find out what was going to happen next. Right from the start, there’s this excellent sense of atmosphere to the book, and I just knew that things weren’t quite what they seemed. 

Where the book didn’t quite hit the mark for me was in the characters, while ultimately I was interested in the conclusion, I just didn’t find any of them sparkled in that special. Bettina is just… kind of bland… it’s like she exists within a haze, which I guess makes sense given the story, but ultimately, it’s not that interesting to read about. 

This is the type of book that I’d recommend to people who are fans of gothic mysteries and fairy-tales, for those who are into more character-driven books, this may not be a great fit.
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Flyaway by Kathleen Jennings
Flyaway is an Australian gothic novella by debut author Kathleen Jennings. Tor.com consistently publishes really great novellas, and I’m not here to tell you that this is an exception to the rule. Instead, Flyaway takes the fantasy reader to a place more often seen in Jane Harper’s mystery novels, and extends the setting’s natural eerieness into another reality.

Kathleen Jennings - FlyawayKathleen Jennings – Flyaway
A few years ago, Bettina Scott’s father disappeared and her brothers left town. Ever since, Bettina has lived with her mother in the same small Queensland town. One day, Bettina finds a note from one of her brothers in the mailbox with her name on it. Inside, the note says “You coward, Tink.” This one note upends everything Bettina thought she knew about her life, and sends her on a journey to find the truth.

Writing and Plot Structure
I’m at risk of stating the obvious here, but effective writing serves plot structure and vice versa. Even though it’s possible to have a book with good sentence writing and bad plot writing, there’s a great synergy. This is especially present in this novella. Jennings’ writing style is lyrical, managing to illustrate the setting with specific imagery. Although it may seem that lyrical writing might not be the best for building tension, that’s not true here. Not only can Jennings make something tense when the perspective notices it, but that’s also not the only tool she has. 

Flyaway is well served with short chapters that give us a fuller picture of the world than just lyrical sentences. In the first chapter of this novella, the first narrative perspective we see is Bettina’s. It’s immediately clear to the attentive reader that Bettina’s perspective is clouded, to say the least. Once we’re settled in, expecting to see this world through Bettina’s eyes, the narrative perspective shifts. This continues for the rest of the novella: although Bettina is our protagonist and the person whose perspective we primarily see though, that’s not all we see. Additionally, the chapters are short, which doesn’t leave the reader a lot with which to linger. Jennings gives us enough perspectives to ensure that we have a full view of the situation and the world. Altogether, this novella is a creepy read that will chill you in this 90+ degree heat.

Conclusion – Flyaway Is an Unsettling Road Trip Into the Australian Bush
 Flyaway is a quick and gorgeous novella that explores a setting not often seen in books, published by one of the big 5 (Tor.com is a subsidiary of Macmillan). This novella seems like what you would get if you combined The Ten Thousand Doors of January with We Have Always Lived in the Castle and sent your unholy creation to go play in rural Australia. It manages to be incredibly tense and creepy while beautifully written.

I received this title from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Are you going to pick up Flyaway by Kathleen Jennings? Talk about it with us on social media!
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Flyaway turned out to be a wonderfully mysterious, Gothic fairy tale that will ever so slowly, yet beautifully, share all it's secrets with you.

The sad fact is that I almost DNFed this book. At the start of the story, Jennings was extremely detail oriented with the overly flowery descriptions of the town in a writing style that felt a little choppy to me, so I set it aside for a couple days and came back to it, and I am so thankful I did!

Flyaway  takes place in a small western Queensland town, and our protagonist,  Bettina (Tina) Scott comes across as being sort of brainwashed  to not care that her father and brothers have disappeared. And they aren't the only ones in the town to disappear. There's an air of mystery surrounding her and most people seem to want to steer clear of both her and her mother. This is the story of Bettina setting out with her former friends to search for answers, and  for her missing family members. 

I love a Gothic type fairy tale, full of the region's myths and lores, and Flyaway gave me that and more. It is full of mystery, exudes a haunted feeling of otherness, and is about family history. As I reached the end of the book, I could also understand exactly why Jennings opened the book the way she did. So if you're anything like me and have a hard time with overly done descriptions, I'd encourage you to read to page 50 before giving up. 

While I wish there was a little more character development, at the same time,  I think that also could have ruined the story? I never felt overly attached to any of the characters, yet it's also how I've felt with most folklore and fairy tales, so I think it's meant to be this way.  There was just enough interest built to lure me in and I fully enjoyed the ride. 

If you're a fan of Shirley Jackson,  F. Paul Wilson, E. Lilith McDermott, and/or  Richard Matheson, I think you'll enjoy Flyaway a good deal. 

*All thoughts are based off the advanced reading copy I read, and are subject to change by the final printing of the book. *

Many thanks to Netgalley and Macmillan Tor/Forge for the e-galley and the opportunity to share my thoughts.
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Flyaway is the latest novel to come from the mind of Kathleen Jennings, and it is a thing of beauty. Having read it, I can now understand all of the hype I've been hearing about this novella.

Bettina Scott is a woman of many names, depending on who you ask. Growing up in a small Western Queensland town, there is a certain air of mystery around her. And her entire family. Her father went missing one day, and then her brothers followed.

Now she's alone with her mother, and she's on a path of being that good little girl that her mother always wanted. That is, until the mystery became too much for her to continue turning away from.

“If you were born to Runagate with all its fragile propriety, its tidy civilization, its ring-fence of roads and paddocks, wires and blood, there was nothing else in the world beyond but trees.”

Flyaway is the perfect amalgamation of family horror, century gothic vibes, and a strong sense of otherness. Simply put, there is something wrong with the Scott family, and this is the journey to the truth.

I was sucked into this story from the first sentence. Let me tell you, it has been a hot minute since something like that has happened to me, and for that reason alone, I will treasure this novella – all while touting it to anybody who will listen.

The addition of family drama in a horror concept is actually perfection, and I love it the more I think about it. It adds more layers to an already complex story, all while increasing the stakes. At least, when done right. As was the case for Flyaway.

The way this twisted story reveals itself is another highlight, in my mind. Bettina's tale is truly chilling – but the depth of that is far from clear, not until you really dive in. Even so, the early scenes make it clear that something is wrong. Very wrong. It's a feeling in the air, something that anybody who has ever experienced gaslighting in person can attest to.

“YOU COWARD, TINK”

The mystery in this novella quickly unfolds, yet only thanks to the secondary characters whom take pity on Bettina. Personally, I enjoyed each revelation as they came, and would have happily read an entire novel's worth of that suspense.

But alas, it was only a novella, and I quickly finished it. It was absolutely worth it, and I have no regrets on that front. Other than to hope that there will be more like this in the future.
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Woooow! This has been a delightful reading.
I love Kathleen Jennings's writing style.

The story is like a dark fairy tale, full of magic, mystery and darkness.
Once you start reading, it gets difficult to stop. You are already immersed in the story. You are now a part of the story, and, as well as the characters from Runagate, you cannot simply leave the town.

Another thing I really liked was the stories between chapters. You can see they are inspired by popular fairy tales.

The cover (this US version) is absolutely wondeful! Please, look at all those details. You can see the creative process here.

Thanks to Macmillan-Tor/Forge and NetGalley for providing me with an e-arc in exchange for my honest review.
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Years ago, Bettina Scott’s father left and her two brothers disappeared, leaving her alone with her perfectly pleasant mother. But when a note from one of her brothers arrives one day, Tina starts questioning her own memories of the day they disappeared. The quest for answers leads her out of her town and into the wilderness around, and the more secrets she uncovers, the more she realises that her family history–and her own–is much darker than she remembers.

Listen. I love the story-in-a-story trope. So I was bound to love this book from the get-go. Tina’s plot gets interrupted by tales narrated by side characters, short fairy-tale-esque narrations that never failed to send a shiver down my spine.

The writing in this book is incredible. The descriptions conjure up the surrounding wilderness of the haunted villages so incredibly well, leading to an underlying feeling of suspense that becomes clearer and clearer throughout the story: the feeling of something not being quite right. The whole book has an underlying haunting darkness, even while being set in the blazing sun. The way Tina discovers not only what happened all those years ago, but also her very self, was masterfully done and fantastic to read.

What starts out as a simple mystery quickly turns into a darkly gothic, horror-esque tale (with bone horses and pale dogs with glowing eyes), as the characters fall deeper and deeper into the uncanny history of their intertwined families. A wonderfully enjoyable read, and perfect for darkening days and the beginning of autumn!
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This book follows Bettina Scott who receives a mysterious note from her brothers which might cast more light on her father's disappearance than she was comfortable confronting.

The atmosphere in this novel is great. It really captures that haunted home town feel. What I appreciated from especially with that aesthetic is how it follows the individual who's haunted, rather than the friend/relative trying to save her. That being said, the characterization was very light and this work focused more on imagery and atmosphere. For so short a book, this one felt awfully long.
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I’m not quite sure how I feel about Flyaway, but I also think that might be the point?
I thought the basic plot of the story was interesting – Bettina’s father and brothers left years ago, but things aren’t quite what they seem. The writing was very descriptive, and I enjoyed that.
However, I don’t think the story was developed enough. It felt like it was trying too hard to be oblique and leave the reader guessing. It’s possible to do that and tell a good story, and do I enjoy novels like that. But Flyaway left me more confused than I wanted to be at the end of the book.
So much of the story depends on Tina not remembering the past, but there’s never actual development of her character or her relationship with other characters. It didn’t feel like anyone had a personality, and it was hard to care about what happened.
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3.5/4 of 5 stars
https://lynns-books.com/2020/07/30/flyaway-by-kathleen-jennings/
My TL:DR Five Word Review : Fairytale-fuelled-small-town-creepiness
Flyaway is a book of family horror intertwined with fairytale elements told in an extravagant fashion and set in the searing heat of small town Australia.  Similar to fairy tales, at the heart of Flyaway lurks a mystery, family secrets and a dark and sinister outcome that quite belies the flowery prose and beautifully illustrated cover.

In a nutshell, this started off rather slowly for me and in some respects, and being fairly short in nature, I’m now tempted to go back to the beginning and read it over to see how it pans out on a second airing, but, in spite of my initial reservation I have to confess that I felt compelled to read this and once I became a bit more familiar with the author’s style and the mystery began to open up I had no problems devouring this in one sitting.

In terms of plot, I’m not going to elaborate too much here.  In fact, if I was to sit down and summarise this story  I suspect I wouldn’t have much more to say than this is a family mystery with a little more to it than expected.   Basically, Bettina Scott is a young woman who lives in a strange state of lethargy or fugue.  Relentlessly conditioned by her prim and proper mother she’s almost like a ghost character unable to function without the constant echoes of her mother’s voice inside her head telling her how to behave.  One day, Bettina receives a strange note that sets her off on an even stranger journey to try and discover why her brothers and father disappeared.

What I really liked about Flyaway are the strange allusions to various fairy tales – none of them quite as they were originally told.  There are hints of Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty and the Pied Piper all tied together with a much darker version of the Wild Swans tale.  Underneath the whimsy and poetic prose lies one family’s very own horror story created by parental favouritism and cloaked over the years by a conspiracy of secrets and lies.

In terms of the writing.  The story is related in a series of tales told by various characters along the way that eventually come together to create a bigger picture. The writing itself is really quite beautiful, but, at the same time, it took me a little while to get used to it and at first I found myself backtracking to discover the true meaning of the sentences. Again though, upon finishing the story I found myself loving the way Jennings uses such flowery terms to retell a story that is actually quite grim.  It all feels like a play on original fairy tales and the way they have adapted over the years to become more palatable tales to tell to children at bedtime.

The setting really plays into the mystery and is actually a little better described than the characters to be honest.  Small town, dilapidated, sun soaked, curtain twitchers, people with their own versions of stories that have become fantastical over the years taking on a life of their own.  There is a sinisterness to the place itself that really feeds into the strange gothic air being drawn here.

The characters are probably the most flawed part of Flyaway.  It’s difficult to latch onto any of them, they’re neither likable or unlikable really, although, again, this also reflects fairy tales to some extent.  I would say this is the one thing that was lacking for me and the biggest criticism  because I do love character focused stories where I can really latch onto someone.  In fact Bettina herself also felt a little strange to me.  I never really understood why she seemed to stumble through life as a pale reflection of herself.  Clearly, there was some kind of trauma that initiated her own amnesia but I think the reader is expected to join up quite a lot of the dots themselves in that respect.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, as mentioned, it took me a little while to get used to the style here and none of the characters really worked their magic on me.  I wouldn’t say that this would be a book for everyone, it has a real ‘marmite’ feel to it.  It won me over as the story progressed but if flowery writing, dissected fairy tale retellings and stories that really do need some teasing out to get to the real events are not your thing then be warned.  This once upon a time may not conclude happily ever after for all readers.

As it is, I enjoyed this and what I liked even more is the way it stayed with me afterwards and kept giving me further food for thought.

My rating for this keeps changing, sometimes it’s 3.5 and sometimes its 4 out of 5 stars.  I’m still undecided so in conclusion let’s say 3.5-4 shiny stars.

My thanks to the publisher for a review copy which I received through Netgalley.  The above is my own opinion.
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