Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Review: Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

Firstly, thanks to Pan Macmillan Australian for this review copy <3


Date Read: August 15 - 20 2016
Date Released: August 30 2016
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Source: Review copy via publisher
Genre: Contemporary
My Rating:

"This is a love story.
It's the story of Howling Books, where readers write letters to strangers, to lovers, to poets.
It's the story of Henry Jones and Rachel Sweetie. They were best friends once, before Rachel moved to the sea.
Now, she's back, working at the bookstore, grieving for her brother Cal and looking for the future in the books people love, and the words they leave behind."


I’m not even going to deny that I’m very behind with reading YA by Australian authors. Hell I know heaps of readers overseas who have read more Australian YA than me. I’d never read a Cath Crowley book before this, but her name is one I hear often. When I heard about the concept of WiDB I knew I immediately had to have it in my life. I was also a teensy bit worried that I wouldn’t like it because Cath is so well loved. PRESSURE’S ON. I’m officially a Cath Crowley fan now. Much koala tea.

Set against the backdrop of a Melbourne second-hand bookstore where visitors can leave letters to each other in books, WiDB had such a dream-like quality. I don’t mean it was not realistic, far from it actually. But imagine stepping into a bookshop on a rainy day and there’s a fireplace inside and it’s all warm and cozy (Howling Books does not, in fact, have a fireplace – it does however, have many other awesome aspects). It’s got that glow you know? The glow of stepping into another world, another reality.

Told from dual-perspectives the book opens with our female MC Rachel as she returns to the city nearly a year after the death of her brother Cal. She can’t stand living on the coast anymore as it’s a reminder of everything she’s lost. I connected really well with Rachel. She is struggling in her grief; nearly a year after Cal’s death she questions whether she should have started to move on but at the same time how could she do that to Cal’s memory? And this is essentially what the majority of the book is about from Rachel’s POV. It affects the way she connects with people. I liked her slow and gradual growth throughout the book.

Henry though… man this guy was a piece of work. I love that he reads and he’s got a sense of humour. He’s a nice guy but my gosh his obsession with Amy was too much. She’s like on his mind 90% of the time. I wanted to slap him so many times like omg what did he see in her? So she might not be the worst being on earth but she’s not winning any girlfriend awards anytime soon. Other than her looks I couldn’t figure out what was the connection between the two. Apart from that, his appreciation of the written word is inspiring. He will read just about anything and he actually evaluates the book’s messages – perks of growing up in a family who owns a bookstore.

The secondary characters were fantastic. The exploration of familial bonds and relationships was on point. Rachel’s love for Cal was obvious in the memories she has of him. Henry’s loving relationship with his sister and parents also shone through. It’s not all rainbows and unicorns, but it’s the underlying ties that bind. There are kind and loving ex’s who still care. There are great friendships too – the friends from school but also the friendships formed from years and decades of visiting the same bookstore and connecting over a love of words. Crowley broke so many stereotypes and yes there is drama but reality is not always a soap opera.

My absolute favourite part of this book though, are the letters. THE FEELS. Crowley has interspersed WiDB with letters from the Letter Library. It’s not just leaving letters in classics and poetry (though there’s that too) – it’s underlining favourite passages in TFIOS and Anna and the French Kiss, looking for meaning in life after death in Cloud Atlas, expressing love through Great Expectations. There’s letters from basically all the characters in the book which add to the current plot, but also paints a picture of other timelines, other stories. In fact, there are a set of letters that are part of the main plot, but have a story of their own AND THEY BROKE MY HEART. I was silently tearing up in the beginning but then by the end I was outright sobbing. Beware the feels. These letters were the perfect touch and I can’t get over the perfect execution.

Words in a Deep Blue is a celebration of the written word. A tribute to the lives and memories of those we’ve lost but continue to love. Crowley’s writing is stunning in the way she uses imagery and detail to bring to life the present, but also the past, through the achingly beautiful letters that restless hearts leave for each other. When I first picked this up I was hopeful but unsure of the outcome. Turning the last page of this book I felt a great satisfaction. It’s like serendipity. I’ve also added a great amount of books to my TBR and bought a number of modern classics as a result.


  1. Oh man, Henry actually sounds pretty creepy tbh. I like the sound of Rachel's point of view though! Yesss I love the sound of the letters, they sound like little glorious snippets of people's lives. I'm so glad to hear that this book really touched your heart and yay for Aussie YA!

  2. LOL I was the same with Henry. Actually both MCs kind of annoyed me, but I still lovvvvvved it. THE LETTER LIBRARY. GAH.