Amy & Lan by Sadie Jones
Publication Date: August 16th, 2022
Hardcover. 320 pages.
About Amy & Lan:
"'The very first thing I remember is standing on the water-butt in the garden, with my Mum holding me to stop me falling, singing 'I'm On Top of the World' , and the smell of the new wood in the hot sun. And something do with Mum's silver necklace. '
Amy doesn't remember any of that. Her very first memory is our wolfhound Ivan knocking her over in a puddle. Or it might be eating a boiled egg, and looking at the daisies on her kitchen tablecloth.” Amy Connell and Lan Honey are having the best childhood ever. They live on a 78-acre farm in the South West of England, with sisters and brothers, other kids, chickens, goats, three dogs, and even a calf, called Gabriella Christmas.
'Honeys in the Farmhouse, Connells in the Cowhouse, Hodges in the Carthouse . . .'
The three sets of parents are best friends who came to Frith from the city, and are learning, year after year, how to farm the land.
Free and unsupervised, Amy and Lan play with axes and climb on haystacks, but there is grownup danger at Frith they don't see. It's Gail, Lan's mother, and Adam, Amy's father who should be more careful. They should learn what kids know: never to play with fire"
Amy & Lan is a coming of age story following–you guessed it– best friends Amy and Lan who live on a farm with their families in the South West of England. Before they were born, their families decided they wanted to live out a "pastoral dream" and moved them all out to the farm where they now try their hand at farm living, complete with raising some livestock and learning how to take care of the land and buildings.
Amy & Lan is told in alternating first person points of view switching between Amy and Lan themselves, which worked excellently for the story. There were times when I felt that their voices were sometimes lost between one another and I had to remind myself whose POV I was reading (although this was easily remedied since they were almost always together and so they would mention the other by name), but this wasn't a consistent issue. Sometimes I didn't mind this as much because it made me think a lot about how close these two were as friends and how their families were seemingly combined due to living together and spending all their time together.
As the story progresses, there are some small time jumps that allows us to watch Amy and Lan grow a couple years over the course of the story, and I loved how well Jones portrayed the slow developments in Amy and Lan's thought processes, interests, and how they start realizing they aren't the carefree children they once were. We don't see them grow into teenagers, but even in the years we follow them we see the two slowly realize that there are more issues at play between their parents than they maybe chose to realize or understand when they were younger, things that they used to brush off because they were kids that now they are unable to brush off and ignore anymore. It was difficult at times to read this loss of carefree innocence, but at the same time I really liked watching Amy and Lan grow and discover both the pains and joys of growing up and learning about the realities of the world around them, for better or for worse. Because of this, there were actually quite a few rather sad moments to experience with these children that made this book hit harder than I expected it to at times.
When written well, a story told from the perspective of a child is always exceptionally hard-hitting for me because of how truthful and often unknowingly perceptive they are. Obviously Sadie Jones is not a child, but she really captures that youthful innocence of children through Amy and Lan's experiences. For instance, the kids may notice some tension among the adults or that something seems off, but they're kids, who cares? They'd rather go off and play somewhere or hang out with the animals on their farm, they don't need to worry about adult problems. I also loved how well Jones portrayed the sense of freedom that all of the kids on this farm felt when they were young and able to simply enjoy where they lived.
There were a lot of names to remember on this farm and I'll admit I did have to keep reminding myself who everyone one and which kid belonged to which parent, but most of the characters I struggled to remember were secondary enough that it wasn't overly crucial to the plot. There are a lot of different character relationships and dynamics at play throughout the story that pop up in different places and that added a lot of depth to our understanding of both Amy and Lan as well as what life was like for these kids with parents wanting to try out the farming life in the modern age.
The ending was wonderfully done, but I also hated the ending. I hate it in the sense that I just personally wish things worked out differently, even though I know how well it worked for the story and I really appreciated how Jones chose to conclude this chapter in Amy and Lan's lives. It was bittersweet (though it felt bitter to me, mostly) and written wonderfully and left me feeling a bit melancholy after the fact. It was almost nice to feel that again because a book hasn't done for me in a while, it seems.
Overall, I've given Amy & Lan five stars! I really enjoyed my time reading this book and the opportunity to jump into a couple prominent years of Amy and Lan's lives.
*I received a copy of Amy & Lan courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*