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The Gifts: Book summary and reviews of The Gifts by Liz Hyder

The Gifts

A Novel

by Liz Hyder

The Gifts by Liz Hyder X
The Gifts by Liz Hyder
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About this book

Book Summary

The Gifts is an astonishing novel, a spellbinding tale told through five different perspectives and set against the luminous backdrop of nineteenth century London, it explores science, nature and religion, enlightenment, the role of women in society and the dark danger of ambition. 

It will take something extraordinary to show four women who they truly are ...

October 1840. A young woman staggers alone through a forest in the English countryside as a huge pair of impossible wings rip themselves from her shoulders.

In London, rumors of a "fallen angel" cause a frenzy across the city, and a surgeon desperate for fame and fortune finds himself in the grips of a dangerous obsession, one that will place the women he seeks in the most terrible danger.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Remarkable...Hyder skillfully juggles the many threads, never slowing the momentum of her propulsive plot, and by blending realistic and fantastic elements, she perfectly captures the era's uneasy attempts to marry faith and science. This memorable outing has special appeal for fans of fantasy-inflected historicals such as Sarah Perry's The Essex Serpent." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Readers who like the early-Victorian-era setting and feisty female characters will enjoy this book." —Booklist

"A unique and captivating read that we truly adored." ―Cosmopolitan

"Impressive… A celebration of female solidarity, it's brimful of historical detail and beautifully written." ―Sunday Express Magazine (UK)

"Brimming with historical detail and beautifully written, the soulful prose soars. It's an insightful mysterious read celebrating female friendship and solidarity." —Daily Express (UK)

"Liz Hyder won the Waterstones Children's Book Prize for the brilliantly original Bearmouth and The Gifts is just as impressive — an imaginative extraordinary flight of fancy firmly grounded in the grim realities of Victorian England." ―Daily Mirror (UK)

"A stirring tale of female empowerment, full of vivid imagery and evocative settings... The Gifts' scope is impressive and sure to win Hyder new fans." ―The Observer (UK)

"Fierce and touching, this extremely compelling novel follows its female protagonists through 19th century London where a surgeon struggles with the dark lure of scientific ambition while his marriage crumbles, a journalist pursues the mystery of the angel fished from the Thames and two young women find themselves inexplicably transformed in the depths of despair. Beautiful and riveting." ―Jennifer Saint, author of Ariadne

"I devoured The Gifts, eager to find out the fate of its wonderfully drawn characters. A wonderful, atmospheric book that immersed me in the dirty streets of nineteenth century London and swept me away to the hills of Shropshire. A real gem." ―Louise Hare, author of This Lovely City and Miss Aldridge Regrets

"Haunting, thrilling, wonderful. I loved it." ―Stacey Halls, Sunday Times bestselling author of The Familiars

This information about The Gifts was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

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Ann B. (Kernville, CA)

A feminist story wherein hard-pressed Victorian women must find their wings
This novel melds historical fiction with magical realism to tell the stories of four women straining against the limitations imposed on them in Victorian England. The patriarchy very much pins them down, like specimens. In fact, when two of the women, Etta and Natalya, inexplicably grow wings, a young surgeon with a god complex holds them captive in his seeping London basement in order to mount an exhibit of "his angels." They are no more than scientific specimens in Edward's eyes, and he treats them as such. The other two women are Edward's wife, Annie, from whom he has kept his captives secret, and a talented writer and budding journalist named Mary. Short, alternating chapters are told from the perspectives of each of the four, plus the increasingly ambition-crazed Edward. Chapters are introduced by a charming illustration that signals the chapter's POV character -- Etta the botanist is represented by an oak leaf, Mary the journalist by an inkpot and quill, Natalya the Orkney Islands dweller by a seashell, Annie the artist and beleaguered wife by a painter's palette, and Edward by a key. This book is for those who like a well-paced plot, descriptive prose, and strong female characters who overcome grief and hopeless situations to finally find their wings.

Susan L. (Alexandria, VA)

Angelic Tale of Strength
The Gifts reveals the heart of five women caught by circumstances beyond their control. Three are transformed. One is broken. Another finds the truth. Each of the women must face her own path and purpose. Ultimately this is a book about strength and courage. The courage to face life as it happens and to forge your own path using the gifts you have been given. These women use their wings, art, and curiosity as their guides. I loved it. It was both fanciful and realistic. Sad but hopeful. Caged and empowered. Everything you want in a story.

Charla Wilson

Angels and a Madman
This is one of those books that are hard to put down. It’s also one of those books that keeps you thinking about it when you are not reading it. It has beautiful angels, a crazy, money hungry, fame seeking doctor, a wonderful mid-1800s setting, and even a little romance. All of these things along with a lot of action add up to a great read.

Renee T. (Seward, PA)

The Gifts
In Victorian England, women are mysteriously growing wings; large, angel-like wings. This "miracle" causes an uproar in London, and the lives of an ambitious surgeon, his artist wife, a budding journalist, and two affected women are changed forever.

I was drawn into this book from the very first page. The writing is perfect - Liz Hyder pulls you in until you feel as though you are experiencing everything first hand. Then her writing has the story racing along so you feel you don't have time to put it down or you will miss something. It's also a book that stays with you long after you've finished it because there is so much to think about: women's roles in Victorian England, Victorian medicine and science, religion, the nature of talents and gifts are just a few. I've been recommending it to many reading friends. An excellent choice for book clubs.

Monica W. (Pottstown, PA)

Unexpected
The book was very intriguing from the start. The women in the book, in my mind, all had "gifts". Each and every one of them had a challenge of their own. Each character/women were very strong, especially living in that time period. The descriptive location throughout transformed the reader right there. The book would be great for book clubs for further discussion. It was a very good book and I wonder if this is going to be a series.

Bonne O. (Hartwell, GA)

Women Rise Above
The Gifts was a pleasure to read. The format was ideal for gradually getting to know the aspirations and struggles of each character during the 1840 time period. Many of the books themes such as misuse of religion, deadly ambition, greed and misogyny are alive and well in today's society. Despite being hampered by social mores of the time, it was heart warming to see how cleverly the collective women used their instinctive intelligent and talents to reach a conclusion.

...27 more reader reviews

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More Information

Liz is a writer, creative workshop leader and freelance arts PR consultant. She has been part of Writing West Midlands's Room 204 writer development program since 2016. In early 2018, she won The Bridge Award/Moniack Mhor's Emerging Writer Award. Bearmouth, her debut novel for young adults won the Branford Boase Award and the Waterstones Children's Book Award for Older Readers.

Liz's debut book for adults, The Gifts, is published by Manilla Press (UK) and Sourcebooks (USA).

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