Review: Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan by Ruth Gilligan

Hey guys!

I’m so pumped about this week’s review and I can’t wait to tell you guys all about this book. This week’s review is about Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan by Ruth Gilligan. So, before I get started, I want to say a big thank you to Tin House Books and NetGalley for sending me a copy of this book for review. When I first read the description of this book on NetGalley, I was intrigued by the setting and perspectives of the characters. Because this story is largely set in Ireland, and because I have tonnes of ancestry from that country, I was super interested in what I could learn about the nation’s culture and history. One of the story’s awesome characters,  Aisling immediately appealed to me. The more I learned about her life, the more I wanted to know. I felt like she could easily be one of my booky best friends, and felt compassion for her at every turning point in her story. Everything about her journey and her character was lovable and relatable.  Anyway! I’m clearly way too excited about this book and all of its amazing qualities. Before I give away too much, let’s get to the summary!

The story is told through three different perspectives. The first character that we meet is a little girl named Ruth, who travels from Lithuania with her family in the early 1900s. They had hoped for a better life and brighter opportunities in America, but ended up travelling to Ireland instead. The second character that we meet is a mute Jewish boy named Shem, who lives in a mental institution in the 1950s. We learn about Shem’s roommate in the institution, a man named Art. Art is tortured by a lost love and tells Shem about this heartbreak from his youth. Finally, we learn about my favourite character, Aisling. In present-day London, Aisling tells us all about her life as a journalist, primarily a writer of obituaries. Dating a Jewish man named Noah, she tries her hardest to get along with his family. A small time afterwards, Noah gives Aisling a gift, supposedly from his mother. Noah asks Aisling not to open the gift until they can have a discussion about it. Confused and somewhat irritated, Aisling tears the gift open to find a book about conversion to Judaism. Aisling, raised by an Irish Catholic family, struggles with her identity and her future. She struggles with ideas of which version of herself she is meant to be. Even though I told you guys a lot about Aisling (mostly because I love her), all of these characters  struggle with their identities and ideas of who they want to be.

This book was kind of a divergence from my current reading list, mostly consisting of odd combos of thrillers and classics. I was initially slightly worried that the author’s pacing might be an issue for me, but I was pleasantly surprised. The plot and minor characters were super interesting and kept me wanting more. Each character was so unique and dynamic that I found myself relating to each of them in different ways. I especially loved finding out how their tragic stories of belonging were intertwined. While this book was not exactly a page-turner, I was riveted and enthralled with every aspect of the story. So, was there anything about this book that I didn’t like as much? The only aspect of this story that I didn’t entirely love was the way that the author described the deaths of some of the characters’ loved ones. The author didn’t describe the losses to any great extent, and I felt like their deaths deserved more explanation and attention. Apart from this small detail, I loved this book and found it to be fantastic and immensely interesting. I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone who loves dynamic characters and historical fiction – The author uses extremely engaging characters to write about a lesser known history of Jewish communities in Ireland. I would also recommend this book to anyone who, like me, has a personal connection to Ireland or Judaism. Any way you slice it, this book was amazing and well worth the read.

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