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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A disturbing portrait of childhood
The 121 page-long chapters which comprise "Reasons She Goes to the Woods" create an unforgettable portrait of its central character: Pearl, a little girl who worships her father and despises her mother. Deborah Kay Davies's evocation of the landscape of childhood is instantly familiar and it is this familiarity combined with Pearl's particular pathologies which makes the...
Published 3 months ago by Eleanor

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars If you go down to the woods today
This novel's fabulous title finally tempted me to give it a go, and how I wanted to like it. Deborah Kay Davies is clearly a gifted writer, and her evocations of a small girl exploring the woods are spot on both in terms of the psychology of small girls and the geography of woodlands: 'the stream's breath smells of bright weeds, frogspawn, lichened pebbles... Circular,...
Published 4 months ago by Laura T


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars If you go down to the woods today, 29 Mar 2014
By 
Laura T (Cambridge, U.K) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Reasons She Goes to the Woods (Hardcover)
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This novel's fabulous title finally tempted me to give it a go, and how I wanted to like it. Deborah Kay Davies is clearly a gifted writer, and her evocations of a small girl exploring the woods are spot on both in terms of the psychology of small girls and the geography of woodlands: 'the stream's breath smells of bright weeds, frogspawn, lichened pebbles... Circular, swirling eyes come and go on its surface... Pearl's shorts and pink sun-top all feel so stupid. She wades into the water, her sandals growing heavy, and waits for the stream to settle.' And, a little later on in Pearl's childhood: 'The sun is jabbing through the foliage like knitting needles, pointing out beautiful things. Bursts of golden light dart and pool in amongst the leaves. Her eyes are sore and swollen. Everything has a pink tinge. It's weird, and the woods start to look wrong, so she throws her voice up to the trees' heads.' As a very small child, the short vignettes from Pearl's life are fascinatingly well-observed. I'm wary of child narrators, but even I had to admit that Davies handles these snippets well, simultaneously capturing the eerie dangers and fantastic adventures promised by the woods.

Unfortunately, Reasons She Goes To The Woods does not fulfil the promise of its opening sections. One major issue is the form of the novel. I think restrictive forms can often be very good for writers - Eleanor Catton certainly made it work in The Luminaries - but by choosing to tell Pearl's story not only in brief vignettes but vignettes that all have to be more-or-less the same length, Davies has saddled herself with an impossible task. This almost works when Pearl is a small child, as the brief sections mirror the short attention span of a three- or four-year-old, but the natural lengthening the reader expects as Pearl grows into a teenager is necessarily absent. Rather than sinking deeper into Pearl's world, the reader feels increasingly alienated and confused. Secondly, I found that Pearl herself became a less interesting character as she grew older - although perhaps she was imprisoned in the novel's form. The originality of her depiction as a small child gives way to something that feels much more familiar; an amoral, unforgiving, judgemental and rather Freudian girl caught between childhood and adulthood. Especially near the end of the novel, I had the sense that Davies was grasping for fairy-tale resonances, but - having never had much patience with Bruno Bettleheim's Freudian readings of fairy-tales - I felt that this all fell rather flat.

I can't see this on the Baileys shortlist, largely because it promises so much more than it delivers. However, the quality of the writing was evident throughout, and I'll be seeking out more of Davies's work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A disturbing portrait of childhood, 23 April 2014
By 
Eleanor (Oxford, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Reasons She Goes to the Woods (Hardcover)
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The 121 page-long chapters which comprise "Reasons She Goes to the Woods" create an unforgettable portrait of its central character: Pearl, a little girl who worships her father and despises her mother. Deborah Kay Davies's evocation of the landscape of childhood is instantly familiar and it is this familiarity combined with Pearl's particular pathologies which makes the novel so disturbing. Davies marshals her material superbly, leading the reader, page by page, to a satisfying conclusion.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A real wild child, 5 April 2014
By 
Kathryn Eastman "Nut Press" (Wales) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Reasons She Goes to the Woods (Hardcover)
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Told in a series of vignettes, each no longer than a page, Reasons She Goes to the Woods charts episodes from the childhood of Pearl, a 'normal' girl. I would question what's considered normal here because she is more often than not bad, cruel or violent than good, kind or nice. She certainly does certain things that I'd consider as normal, especially when she plays outdoors, whether it be in her garden alone or with her kid brother or one or more of her friends, or in the titular woods behind her house, and there is good reason for her finding contentment in her own world, as an escape from her home life and to keep herself occupied. But she can do things which make for uncomfortable reading and are downright vicious and nasty and you have to wonder where that comes from. You do get a sense for why she might be more bad than good as a result of her parents' treatment of her, in particular her mother's, but the mother is battling demons, only one of which is her daughter. I didn't get much of a sense of Pearl's father and really wanted him to be a stronger character, given how much Pearl looks up to him and adores him. But Pearl's mistreatment or neglect at home only goes part of the way towards explaining her behaviour sometimes and I don't know if it ever excused it. I don't think the author ever set out to excuse or explain it either but there is a lot here that makes for uncomfortable reading simply because it isn't put into a wider context because of the way the book is structured.

I liked the idea behind that structure - I think a lot of people, not just children, will hold memories in a series of kaleidoscopic episodes that don't always fall into chronological order when remembered, and that is what happens here. I believe we're rarely told Pearl's age, although you can try and work it out from events in her life and what her concerns are to a certain extent, but overall that didn't help me when I was wondering if the behaviour she exhibits was the behaviour of a 'normal' child or not. It's hard to say when you only catch glimpses of that child and don't know the age of that child at the time. All we know is that she's a bright girl albeit one who sees school as fairly pointless until revision time. Admittedly, the reader can gain a better sense of Pearl and her family situation as the book progresses and more of the episodes build up in layers upon each other but there is still a lot that is left unexplained or just out of reach and it all ends rather abruptly. Another interesting and challenging read from Deborah Kay Davies.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Wood Beez, 29 Jan 2014
By 
Bela Lugosi's Dad "Bela Lugosi's Dad" (Kent, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Reasons She Goes to the Woods (Hardcover)
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This is terrific. Original, offbeat, short and bitter-sweet. It's increasingly difficult to do anything interesting with the closed formula of the modern novel but Deborah Kay Davies pulls it off admirably with chapters that are more like snippets from a dream and a brilliantly realised sense of growing menace. For anyone looking for something slightly more challenging than the latest 'Gone Girl' rip-off, this is highly recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Another great novel by Deborah Kay Davies, 21 May 2014
This review is from: Reasons She Goes to the Woods (Hardcover)
The Reason I wanted to read Reasons She Goes To the Woods is because I read True Things About Me by Deborah Kay Davies a few years ago and very much enjoyed it. I have been waiting for Deborah to publish another novel ever since I finished reading True Things About Me.
Reasons She Goes To the Woods is about a very naughty little girl named Pearl. The things does to her baby brother will make you cringe and feel totally sorry for her baby brother having a sister like Pearl.
Pearl bosses her friends about being very cruel to them and making them do things that are totally gross.
As you read on you are willing the characters to say no to Pearl and to say no I am not doing that.
But no one will stand up to her and her friends just seem to do exactly whatever Pearl says
.Pearl's mother is a strange mother and pearl does not seem to like her own mother, but she adores her father.
I totally loved all the characters and whole story by Deborah Kay Davies. I cannot wait for Deborah's next novel. I hope that all readers who read this story enjoy it as much as I have.
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3.0 out of 5 stars We need to talk about Pearl, 8 May 2014
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This review is from: Reasons She Goes to the Woods (Hardcover)
Pearl being the name of the main protagonist. Pearl is a combination of Damien from the Omen and Lolita and has what you would call an electra complex - being in competition with her mother for the attentions of her father. So far, so disturbed. Now, I realise as a grown woman, the trials and tribulations of girlhood are now far behind me but this sgtory is in no way describing an average girlhood. I don't know many little girls who would jump off a tree in the full knowledge and willingness to break their leg. Parade around in a bikini for their father and push their mother into oncoming traffic. This is beyond any "acting up" by a child I've ever heard of.

Most disappointingly however, is that the woods themselves feature only fleetingly. Sure, we know Pearl goes down there now and then but the book largely revolves around her increasingly disturbing behaviour at home and with friends. I just didn't get any real sense of why they were so special to her. I think the writer missed a trick here and it could have added so much to the book. As it is, it's just a story, told in vignettes of a problem child. This is not a tale of a bratty child growing up, it's a tale of a severely disturbed child.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars an unsettling look at growing up, 14 April 2014
By 
LittleMoon (loving my life in the rain) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Reasons She Goes to the Woods (Hardcover)
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I know I shouldn’t review this book by looking at other reviews, but it’s difficult not to. It’s really interesting to see some of the words used to describe this book, but even more interesting to see the comments made about Pearl, the little girl whose world we enter into in this novel. Experience tells me that some children are cruel to each other, and bully each other, that children feel jealousy, and love and that they feel these things deeply enough for their echoes to linger into adulthood; it also suggests that their world views, and sense of propriety are limited, usually to (or by) direct experience. Pearl seems typical in this respect and I admire the fact that Davies has chosen to portray her whims and wickedness with such candour.

If Pearl is perhaps more confused (horrid/evil?) than the “average” child, whoever they might be, there are at least some mitigating factors: a newborn sibling (aka “The Blob”), a mother who has significant mental health issues, and a loving father who is well-meaning enough but appears increasingly unable to cope. Again, to me, this seems a plausible slice of reality; dysfunctional being the new “normal”. Pearl is a wicked child at times, but not devoid of sympathy when placed in the wider context of the family situation in which she is growing up.

Davies has chosen to write this book in page long vignettes, each separately titled. She gives us a different take on the standard formula of the novel which I think works well. There is some jumping about in time, but the story doesn’t lose coherence because of this, and the overall reading experience is easy with enough of a “conclusion” for it to be fulfilling. The classic oedipal themes explored help to create this comfortable narrative arc within the more experimental structure of the novel. The prose is concise, conveying descriptive information of the sights and smells and textures of childhood; the woods are a place of worms, leaves, roots and water; everything is connected with the senses: this style makes the story feel as though it is experienced by the reader rather than being told to us.

I’m not sure if I enjoyed this novel, even though I admire the risks it is taking both thematically and stylistically. The character of Pearl is written in a way that is going to be divisive as she acts out a more extreme version of the desires and manipulative whiles that every child is subject to. Reasons She Goes to the Woods offers us an unsettling look at growing up through the eyes of a girl who is struggling to control, discover and understand her place in the world.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars the many tiny tales of a girl called Pearl, 26 Mar 2014
By 
David Spanswick (Brighton United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Reasons She Goes to the Woods (Hardcover)
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Pearl is really not a very nice little girl. The intimacy of this strange and disturbing book reveals an anger not usually associated with one so young which leads me to think that the author herself may well have been not a nice little girl and uses Pearl to explore her own girlish indiscretions, or maybe she is even projecting her grown up anxieties about little girls in general on her heroine.

There is undoubtedly power in the tight page-sized prose poems that in autobiographic sound bites gradually reveal the world that Pearl inhabits and the other people in her life though they all remain distant and filtered through Pearl's oblique life view.

Experiments in novel writing is never less than interesting and I did want more when the book abruptly stopped. I could not help but think that in "Orlando" style she might grow up to be Shriver's Kevin
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5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Brutal, 11 Mar 2014
By 
Tim Roast (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Reasons She Goes to the Woods (Hardcover)
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This is no “teddy bear’s picnic.” The book is about Pearl and it paints her as a destructive, violent soul. It doesn’t matter who, whether it be her friends, her mother, her baby brother, her self, she inflicts physical pain on them all. It’s brutal and almost made me give up the book because, to me, it was so sick.

The story is told in vignettes. Each chapter is exactly one page long with one long paragraph. And between each chapter is one blank page with nothing on it apart from a chapter heading. On first impressions I thought this was clever writing to always get each chapter the same length, although my friend pointed out that it was a waste of paper.

After the brutal beginning things get a little less brutal as you follow the rest of Pearl’s childhood where things happen. Her mother is loony mad and deteriorates and Pearl gets alienated from her family and friends. The end.

At least she didn’t kill herself.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Weird and disturbing, 22 May 2014
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Nikki - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Reasons She Goes to the Woods (Hardcover)
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I couldn't get in to this book and had to give up on it. From what I did read, this is a nasty tale of a very disturbed little girl and I just didn't want to read any more.
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Reasons She Goes to the Woods
Reasons She Goes to the Woods by Deborah Kay Davies (Hardcover - 6 Feb 2014)
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