Monday, 4 November 2019

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Review: All the Bad Apples by Moïra Fowley-Doyle

All the Bad Apples by Moïra Fowley-Doyle

All the Bad Apples by Moïra Fowley-Doyle

Published: 1st August 2019 | Publisher: Penguin | Cover Designer: Charlotte Day | Source: Bought
Moïra Fowley-Doyle's Website

The day after the funeral all our mourning clothes hung out on the line like sleeping bats. 'This will be really embarrassing,' I kept saying to my family, 'when she shows up at the door in a week or two.'

When Deena's wild and mysterious sister Mandy disappears - presumed dead - her family are heartbroken. But Mandy has always been troubled. It's just another bad thing to happen to Deena's family. Only Deena refuses to believe it's true.

And then the letters start arriving. Letters from Mandy, claiming that their family's blighted history is not just bad luck or bad decisions - but a curse, handed down through the generations. Mandy has gone in search of the curse's roots, and now Deena must find her. What they find will heal their family's rotten past - or rip it apart forever.
From Goodreads.

Book Depository | Wordery | Goodreads

Rep: Lesbian protagonist. Biracial (Black and white), bisexual secondary character. Lesbian secondary character. In the stories of ancestors, there's a bisexual character and a lesbian character, though no labels are used. Two f/f relationships, one just at the very beginning of a relationship.



I am a massive fan of Moïra Fowley-Doyle and completely adore her previous novels, The Accident Season and Spellbook of the Lost and Found, so when I heard that she had written a third book earlier this year, I was ecstatic. All the Bad Apples is as enchanting and atmospheric as I was expecting, but what I wasn't expecting was for it to be such a hard hitting and powerful story. All the Bad Apples is absolutely incredible, and so, so important.

'"Do you think we carry them with us?" I asked. "All the stories of the past?"' (p224)

All the Bad Apples tells the story of Deena Rys, and the stories of her Ancestors. On the day of her 17th Birthday, her older sister, Mandy, tells her of the family curse. When they hit 17, the Rys women are struck by the family curse if they are rejected by their family. They know they've been struck by the curse when they hear a banshee scream, when they find a banshee's grey hair over the threshold to their house, and they wake up in the morning with scratch marks all over their body from the third banshee. Later that day, Mandy disappears. Her car is found abandoned at the top of a cliff, with her blood spotted on the rocks below. It's believed she has died by suicide, her body lost in the sea. Even though the family holds a funeral for her, Deena doesn't believe it, and is sure her sister will turn up in a couple of weeks. So she isn't surprised when she finds a letter to her from Mandy at her front gate. She's gone to break the curse now Deena is 17, and is telling Deena the story of her ancestors - the women who have been struck by the curse in the past - through letters that give directions to where Deena will find letters continuing the story, and to finding Mandy. Can Deena find Mandy, and help her break the curse before the final banshee makes herself known?

All the Bad Apples is magical realism like Fowley-Doyle's other novels. There is a curse, the banshees, a magical apple tree with healing powers. The writing is gorgeous, enchanting, and atmospheric, almost like a fairy tale. But while this is all present and deftly woven in throughout the story, there is a very different focus to All the Bad Apples: the oppression and abuse of women and children in Irish history. The wrongs that have been perpetuated over and over again, because of the import of religious doctrine, and how pervasive religious and social ideals were - and are. The idea of what is socially and morally acceptable behaviour for women. The idea of a woman's place, what constitutes a sin, and the shame and scandal brought on a family by the women, the children, who do not play by the rules, who do not conform, who deviate from social norms. But also the abuses and maltreatment at the hands of those in a place of authority within the Catholic church. It's the stories of the women and children who were silenced. The hidden, the concealed, the buried, for the sake of propriety. All the Bad Apples is a very hard hitting novel that looks at so many injustices committed throughout Irish history - some still happening today, or only ended in the recent past - and looks at each through the stories of Deena's ancestors.

My heart broke time and time again. While this story is fictional, the things that happen are not, and it's disgusting and deplorable. The focus is on unmarried mothers - of Fallen women - but there the story also discusses the treatment of queer people, and children, and my god, it's just horrific. What really struck me is that the stories in Mandy's letters are of ancestors, a family tree, we're seeing what came before time and time again, but we also see how fathers treat daughters because of their "sins", the same "sins" their own mothers "committed". You just would have thought being the result of a similar scandal, they'd have more sympathy and understanding, but no. And it's even harder to read and so much more heartbreaking when the pregnancy is the result of rape. The fairy tale feel and magical realism contrasts so well with the stories of Deena's ancestors, I feel it makes All the Bad Apples more effective than if it was a straight contemporary-historical mash-up.

I absolutely cannot stop thinking about this incredibly feminist novel. I have been talking to everyone I know about how amazing this book is, imploring them to read it. It's so powerful, and so important. It's an eye-opener to understand better what happened in Irish history, but it's also a slap in the face when you consider present day stories, and while things have changed, they've not changed anywhere near enough. Fowley-Doyle discusses in her Author's Note the various real life events that inspired this story, and her absolute rage, which you can feel throughout the novel. I just found it so hard hitting; my grandad was Irish, and it's very likely the events that happened in this book happened to people within my own family tree. And at the same time, I know that certain events in All the Bad Apples definitely happened in the other, English half of my family tree, not that many generations ago.

I was completely blown away by All the Bad Apples, and it's further cemented Fowley-Doyle as one of my very favourite authors. I'm not exaggerating when I say this book is my favourite read of the year so far. It's bloody incredible, and I just want everyone to read it. It's heartbreaking, and rage-inducing, but also empowering and hopeful, and it's going to stick with me for a very, very long time.

'"You tell your story and the story of your family. You speak your truth. You shatter the stigma. You hold your head up to the world and speak so that everyone else who was ever like you can recognize themselves. Can see that they aren't alone. Can see that the past will only keep repeating itself as long we're kept powerless by our silence."' (p329)

You might also like:

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed

Over to you graphic
Tell me about your favourite YA novels that look at historic injustices. What are some of your favourite creepy, atmospheric magical realism stories? What do you think of stories within a story? Will you be picking up All the Bad Apples? Let me know in the comments!

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1 comment:

  1. I am also a big fan of Fowley-Doyle's books, and this was a quite a wild ride. It was very eye-opening and some things were quite shocking.

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