Acclaimed author Priya Sharma transports readers back in time with Ormeshadow, a coming-of-age story as dark and rich as good soil.
Burning with resentment and intrigue, this fantastical family drama invites readers to dig up the secrets of the Belman family, and wonder whether myths and legends are real enough to answer for a history of sin.
Uprooted from Bath by his father’s failures, Gideon Belman finds himself stranded on Ormeshadow farm, an ancient place of chalk and ash and shadow. The land crests the Orme, a buried, sleeping dragon that dreams resentment, jealousy, estrangement, death. Or so the folklore says. Growing up in a house that hates him, Gideon finds his only comforts in the land. Gideon will live or die by the Orme, as all his family has.
Ormeshadow is a gorgeous novella about Gideon moving with his parents to live on his uncle’s farm after his father fails in Bath. To deal with this failure, his father tells him great stories about Orme, particularly about the dragon lying underground, sleeping, and waiting to return. Gideon grows up in this environment with these stories. He is equally influenced by his life where he is only tolerated by his uncle and family, and his father, who is telling him fantastical stories to get through a life of hardship, sadness, depression, and disappointment.
Many readers feel the beauty in this because many of us have a history of using stories and language to get through a life that is less than perfect. I feel a strong connection to Gideon because I was that kid growing up, getting through a life of feeling unwanted and a nuisance by living in stories and fantasies. He had learned it through his father, whereas I had learned it through books, but it was necessary. We need these stories for escapism. His father uses his stories and his fantasies as an escape the depression of failure and having to move in with his brother and his family, only to be tolerated because he owned half of the farm too. His life feels so desolate and disappointing that the only thing he could think to do is try to tell stories and make his son happy, let him escape their situation. He used the story of Orme being a buried dragon to convince him that everything is going to work out in the end.
I like this story, and it makes me think about the way that I have coped with failures and disappointments in my life through making up stories, but for some reason, I did not find this to be a my favorite novella. Every aspect of this should really click with me and make me fall in love with the characters and the plot, but this did not happen. The story is beautifully written, with strong themes and actions, and I am able to recognize this as a good story. It just did not connect with me on a deep level. I will not fault anyone for saying that this is their favorite book, but it just did not resonate with me, even though it should have.