A friend recently recommended a wonderful book of fiction, set after the second world war, called A Year of Marvellous Ways by Sarah Winman. If you haven’t read it, I won’t spoil the plot, but suffice to say that ‘Marvellous Ways’ is the name of a very elderly lady who really does live up to her name.

Marvellous is wise, kind, mysterious, communes with spirits and nature and is very aware of the energy of the earth and the seasons. She grows or fishes for her own food. She is not vain and possesses and uses only what she needs. She loves passionately. She does not care about what other people think of her, but she is very accepting and understanding of others. She gets on with life despite the disappointments she has experienced.

The character portrayed is humbling and has made me reflect on how now we are very easily moulded by society’s expectations of us. It is rather hard to be a “Marvellous’ in today’s busy, technical world, much removed from nature’s changing patterns.

The book also made me reflect on my carefree childhood in the country – where, in the school holidays we would announce to our accepting mother that we would like a packed lunch please (jam sandwiches) as we were intending to get lost for the day in the woods. We would arrive back in the late afternoon, tired and happy, having ‘tickled’ fish in the stream, swum in the lake and made dens out of branches and bracken in the woods. I was very lucky to have such experiences which helped shape my appreciation of the bounty of the nature around us.

The characterisation made me rather long to be more of a ‘Marvellous’ now. Doing less of what is expected of me and more of what feels right at the time, listening more to my own, other people’s and nature’s rhythms and doing more going with the flow – that would be a Marvellous way!

Su Mason


Sarah Winman. A Year of Marvellous Ways. Tinder Press, 2015.


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