January 19

The Last Days of Ava Langdon by Mark O’Flynn

I finished this book a few months ago so am very late to the blogging party with this review.  I was in two minds about what I really thought about it – I hoped that with some time, I would be a little clearer.

Spoiler – this didn’t happen and I am still 50/50 – so, welcome to the review where you may actually get zero from it.  Carry on if you are game.

Ava Langdon (a real person by the way) is rather mad.  Not angry mad, unhinged mad. While I was reading her story, I must tell you I felt a little unhinged myself because the skill of Mark O’Flynn is to truly get you into the mind of his subject.  He is a powerhouse and partly, I wonder, if we are all meant to close this book and feel like Ava.  Not read about her, but in some weird way, become her.

Whatever the author’s strategy on this one, it worked. This book received rave reviews and was a Miles Franklin Literary Award Finalist in 2017.  So long story short, is it worth reading?  Yes.

Set in my stomping ground – the Blue Mountains just near Sydney NSW, the story obviously felt close to home.  Not only was I cleverly placed inside the mind of Ava, because I live here too I knew the streets, the shops, the schools, the parks Ava wandered through so I was witness to every single step she took.   The book became a movie that played in my head.

So a little about the story – Ava Langdon is a recluse, living in an abandoned dwelling in the mountains where she hides from her past.  She fled New Zealand in her early years and along the way lost track of her children ending up in the Blue Mountains, alone, eccentric, dressed as a man and scaring the locals when she ventures out.  She clings to one thing only –  the written word.  For Ava, writing is her meditation, her redemption and words are her comfort.  Each one is beautiful and offers endless possibility in her mind.  Her moniker, of course, is Oscar Wilde.

This book is many things.  In parts it is funny, other parts heartbreaking.  I kept wanting Ava to be saved somehow, for some release of the pain to be found but Ava used her pain as a shield to protect herself and who am I to judge?  What I can tell you is that while you may, or may not, know exactly how you feel after you read this, you most certainly will not forget Ava Langdon for a very long time.

But that is just my two cents worth.