Book review: Liz Hyder, The Gifts

The Gifts

A young woman staggers through the woods. Something is happening deep inside and as she’s thrown to her knees in agony, the world around her stops. When she comes to, she is astonished at the sight of her shadow – it has wings.

Meanwhile when rumours of ‘fallen angels’ cause a frenzy across London, a surgeon desperate for fame and fortune will find himself in the grip of a dangerous obsession, and the women he seeks in the most terrible danger . . .

THE GIFTS is the astonishing debut adult novel from the lauded author of BEARMOUTH. A gripping and ambitious book told through several female voices and set against the luminous backdrop of nineteenth century London, it explores science, nature and religion, enlightenment, the knife-edge roles of women in society and the dark danger of ambition.

Purchase Link


I am so sorry I’m late, but wow! What a read. I haven’t been thrown straight into the heart of a story in quite this way for a long time. This fascinating novel explores several themes, and with a dose of magical realism thrown into the world of historical fiction, it’s a heady mix.

We meet Etta in pain, in the forest, where she discovers she’s somehow grown a pair of angelic wings. From there, we are transported to the cut and thrust (literally) of the operating theatre, where we meet the surgeons Samuel Covell and Edward Meake – rivals and friends in a dangerous field. Edward, of the two, is the harsher, and the descriptions of surgery and other practices are occasionally harsh, but then, as the book says itself, surgery is not a field for the squeamish.

Across the city, we meet other characters, including Edward’s wife Annie, and writer Mary, writing newspaper articles alongside her uncle and their friend, including research into the story of the angelic women with wings. When Edward first encounters such an ‘angel’ he believes it to be a fake (why wouldn’t he, as a man of science?), but he takes it back to his basement-laboratory, and sees the discovery as an opportunity for greatness.

The rapid switching of character perspectives makes this a quick read, and also gives a good sense of the busy-ness of the city in many ways, with everyone living their own lives, not realising at first how inter-linked they are. Very much focused on the women of the story, the book truly captures the world, to the extent that even the presence of angels fits in beautifully.

Highly recommended for fans of the mid-nineteenth century, but looking for something with an interesting and captivating twist.

Author Bio

Liz Hyder has been making up stories for as long she can remember. She has a BA
in drama from the University of Bristol and, in early 2018, won the Bridge Award/Moniack Mhor Emerging Writer Award. Bearmouth, her debut young adult novel, won a Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, the Branford Boase Award and was chosen as the Children’s Book of the Year by The
. Originally from London, she now lives in South Shropshire. The Gifts is her debut adult novel.

Social Media Links – Twitter: @LondonBessie ( )Website:


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