**spoiler alert** I was very disappointed in The Wind Singer by William Nicholson. It seems to be an overly simplistic "message" book about the value**spoiler alert** I was very disappointed in The Wind Singer by William Nicholson. It seems to be an overly simplistic "message" book about the value of nonconformity, but that message is garbled by many other messages, many of which I can only hope were unintended. How this ever won an award is beyond me.
I didn't mind the prologue while reading it, but it did bother me that the central questions raised in it (Who are the mysterious strangers who came to Aramanth and built the wind singer? Why did they build it? How did they come by the silver object that gives the wind singer voice? Etc.) are not answered, nor do they seem to be central to the story. Instead, the wind singer seems to hold much the same function as a deus ex machina, except that instead of solving a problem within the story, it's used to kick the whole thing off.
Then we get into the first chapter, in which we meet the Hath family, and which starts with a string of nonsense words that we soon discover are intended to be cuss words. To make matters worse, the speaker is Ira Hath, mother of the children who are the main viewpoint characters, Bowman and Kestrel, and their baby sister, Pinpin. Ira's entire dialog in the first chapter consisted of these cuss words and simple, two or three word sentences bewailing fate, plus she was incapable of dressing herself, thrusting her arms through the seams of her dress instead of into the arms, leaving me to wonder if we were supposed to interpret her as mentally challenged. Then the whole family heads off to Pinpin's first test, an extremely important and public event, with Ira still wearing the torn gown and no one worried or making a comment about it, not even the snippy neighbors or the arrogant officials, in a society where one's clothing (or at least its color) is indicative of one's social standing.
I was bothered by social issues that were not directly, or only peripherally, related to those at the core of the story's message. The Hath parents were kind, loving, and understanding, but Ira Hath in particular was incapable of regulating her own actions and this was contextualized as a good thing, even though her actions put her family at risk. The mud people who lived underneath the city, covered in mud that created by the effluvia of the sewers seemed a naive and simplistically rendered version of the stereotypical "happy savage," while the Ombaraka and Omchaka came across as a cross between nomadic peoples and clueless sports fans playing silly games.
Near the end of the children's journey, the reader is told that Bo has become the natural leader of the group, although in many ways it was Kestrel's courage and steadfastness that kept them going. I surprised and bothered me, not just because from that point forward, Bo (a boy) displaced Kestral (a girl) from the leadership position, but also because it wasn't in keeping with my interpretation of the story and the relationships between the children up to that point. They each had their roles and worked very well together as a team, but none of them would have made it on their own.
I also found the actions of the "heroes" in defending themselves against the "old children" and the Zars to be disturbing. But, it wasn't really their actions, so much as their lack of emotional consequence for their actions. Each of the children kills, and none of them suffer emotional consequences as a result. For anyone, much less a child, to kill and feel no real remorse or upset is psychopathy. This was especially disturbing to me after Mumpo and Bo were turned into Zars and then rehabilitated, for it suggests that the Zars are just as much victims of the Morah as anyone else, perhaps more so.
Finally, the Morah, and the hold she held upon the people of Aramanth, is problematic, for it suggests that the people of the city were not responsible for their actions, right or wrong. If all of the people in the city were victims of mind control, then we can hold none accountable for their actions, with the possible exceptions of Kestral, Bo, and, maybe, Mumpo.
All in all, I found this book intensely dissatisfying. It was competently enough written, but it struck exactly the wrong political and social notes for me, over and over again. While I chose not to restrict my now-grown children's reading, this is not a book I would have put in their hands, and I would have felt the need to talk with them about my concerns....more
I found the voice of the main character (who narrates the story) to be incredibly annoying, but somehow just couldn't put this book down. I loved theI found the voice of the main character (who narrates the story) to be incredibly annoying, but somehow just couldn't put this book down. I loved the story, if not the way in which it was told....more
I borrowed this book from the library and read it as a child. I loved it. The dark brooding setting and the ending haunted me for years, but I was unaI borrowed this book from the library and read it as a child. I loved it. The dark brooding setting and the ending haunted me for years, but I was unable to remember the author's name or the title of the book.
Many years later an friend and I were discussing books we'd loved as children and it turned out that not only had she also loved the book, but she knew the title and the author's name. Another friend, intrigued by our conversation, found and ordered a used copy, so I was finally able to reread the book.
I was amazed in my rereading to see that it was even darker than I had remembered. Also, the protagonist, Tha, was a very angry girl whose attitude and actions were such that my adult self had trouble liking her. Had I not reread the book, I'm sure I would have given it the highest rating, based on the connection I felt as a child, but having reread it, I find my discomfort with the moral ambiguities and the angry nature of the protagonist temper my rating....more
There are very few books of a thousand pages that can satisfy on every page, leaving the reader wishing for more. This is such a book. Truly marvelousThere are very few books of a thousand pages that can satisfy on every page, leaving the reader wishing for more. This is such a book. Truly marvelous....more