Review: Crow Face, Doll Face by Carly Holmes


Mara Girone reviews Crow Face, Doll Face by Carly Holmes

Mystery, magic, mental illness and the wrecking of important relationships are some of the elements that make Crow Face, Doll Face a success.

Annie gives up her dreams to travel the world to settle and have a family with her beloved Peter. We read the description of a quiet daily life where routine and a simple completion of daily tasks makes the pace slow and relaxed. There are small hints of Annie’s dissatisfaction, but when the family starts growing she seems to feel content with the new setting, with all the love added and shared among them.

The pace of reading starts unrushed and uneventful with a background made of daily routine and secure environment. Soon, though, the read becomes fast and overwhelming reaching a climax when life breaks in thousands pieces and the unspeakable and unforgivable becomes reality.

The book starts with a memory of Annie: “I used to have three daughters and a son. […] We used to be average, as families went” – suggesting that this closeness and ‘average’ life doesn’t exist any more, picking in this way the curiosity of the reader.

From the very beginning Annie tells us of the strong and obsessive bond between Doll Face and Crow Face, two of her daughters. Although we don’t get to know them in depth, the characters come out as slightly gloomy and a bit unusual from the beginning. Their features are described by the Mum who is the narrator. I talked about mystery and magic, but I would add sorcery to the mix as the two girls have some little element of evil in them. Annie almost becomes their wicked instrument and her behaviour is the catalyst for the advancing of the action in the story.

Annie loses it all and keeps her anchor stuck in unsure waters with her younger children, the magical, ‘the special’ ones. We are spectators of the transformation of the beautiful feelings of a united family despite economical difficulties, of strong love and bond between the parents, into betrayal, hate, sadness and neglect.

As a reader you will find yourself with many pieces that seem impossible to recover and stick back together. But things can still change for good or for worse. We clearly understand that each action, every choice will lead ultimately to consequences, often life changing ones.

Mara Girone is an editor for MIR online and  is in her first year of the Creative Writing MA at Birkbeck.

28 February 2024