Dow is born to be a woodcutter, being the eldest son, but finds his excitement quickly dulled once he begins his apprenticeship. But then he climbs to...moreDow is born to be a woodcutter, being the eldest son, but finds his excitement quickly dulled once he begins his apprenticeship. But then he climbs to the headland on the edge of the forest and views the ocean for the first time. He is memsmerised - even more so when he sights great ships in the distance. But what use is a passion for the sea when you live in a village on the egde of the forest? And, what's more, where would such a notion come from?
Andrew McGahan has written a pleasing new world where these questions pose very difficult problems for Dow. Difficult, but not impossible. And even when it seems he will be able to follow a life which at least aproximates his heart's desire, unthoughtof barriers arise. New Island is his home. It was once a strong naval community, but has generations hence lost the ight to pursue a life on the seas. Now the people work to provide tribute to the Ship Kings - the nation that has ruled the seas since the Great War, generations ago. A life at sea is in fact forbidden to New Islanders.
The travails of Dow provide for an original and engaging story. I did find that the middle section of the novel spent too long on too few incidents, yet by the end I was immediately hoping that McGahan's publishers would get that second volume out quick smart. (less)
A much loved book from my youth, it was always going to be a risk to reread this one. Published in 1960, it was Garner's first book and one which he m...more A much loved book from my youth, it was always going to be a risk to reread this one. Published in 1960, it was Garner's first book and one which he measured harshly in later years. Although a sequel was published - The Moon of Gomrath - which was also well received, Garner did not follow up with the planned third book. Until now - it is due for release later this year.
The memory of my first experience of reading The Weirdstone of Brisingamen remains strong and positive. I especially remember being truly frightened by a scene midway through the book where the children, Susan and Colin, must pass through a series of ever narrowing tunnels. Not recommended for the claustrophobic! My memory was of Susan and Colin undertaking this challenge alone. This says something about the level of identification Garner's writing achieved, because in fact the journey of the children is made in company with various magical characters. A fellowship, no less.
Alan Garner's story is a classic fantasy quest which makes use of the location and the legends of Alderly, where Garner grew up, and is strongly influenced by Norse mythology, and also by high fantasies such as those of J. R. R. Tolkien. It is a full on, exciting, original and action-packed adventure.
I am not a great fan of rereading books - there are just too many to be getting on with. But I am glad that I revisited this one. I will now catch up with The Moon of Gomrath so as to be ready for the final episode when published later this year. (less)
This is beautifully heartwarming and creepy book! Quite a traditional hero's journey, ticking all the boxes, but highly enjoyable and not at all clich...moreThis is beautifully heartwarming and creepy book! Quite a traditional hero's journey, ticking all the boxes, but highly enjoyable and not at all cliched.
Tom is the seventh son of a seventh son and there is no place for him on the family farm. But his mother has called the Spook, Mr Gregory, and Tom has been taken on as his newest apprentice. What choice does Tom have?
In this first book of the series Tom must prove that he is up to the job. He is tested on his courage, talent for learning and showing initiative. This is a fine balance when some of the Spook's rules seem somewhat weird (don't trust girls, especially the ones wearing pointy toed shoes) yet sticking rigidly to others turns out to be the wrong thing.
Tom is scared out of his wits, trusts the wrong people, is forced to do some very nasty things due to his own mistakes and learns a great deal about the world of spooks, bogarts, witches and such like. He also finds out more than he ever knew about his own family and his place in the world. Highly recommended.(less)
This first person narrative begins as Aaron Rowe has just been taken on as a trainee at a funeral home run by a good soul, John Bolt, who is willing t...moreThis first person narrative begins as Aaron Rowe has just been taken on as a trainee at a funeral home run by a good soul, John Bolt, who is willing to give him a go. We only know that Aaron is leaving school to take the job and that he has not been happy for a long time. He is quiet and wary but compliant. He seems to have no hopes. But immediately he finds a sense of purpose and calm in the job of being an undertaker's assistant. He is comfortable with and respectful of death, but fearful of emotion. How has a young person come to this?
At home we find Aaron lives in a caravan with Mam - his mother, grandmother, guardian? Mam is loving but disoriented, confused, a danger to herself and perhaps to Aaron also. But he copes. There are other dangers in the caravan park - some dodgy neighbours who are threatening the delicate balance of Aaron's life. Then there are the nightmares - every night for a very long time - and the sleepwalking. The nightmares seem related to Aaron working in the funeral business, but is there more? There sure is.
In The Dead I Know Gardner has written a poignant picture of a young man under all sorts of pressure, fighting for his life in a world that can be cold and lonely. But Aaron is also intelligent, caring and resilient. But for how much longer can he succeed in balancing this tottering load?
My only frustration with this book was that the backstory is kept a secret for longer than was comfortable. There was obviously more to the story but it wasn't really revealed till very late. Perhaps this discomfort is a sign of the power of the story, but I felt very disturbed by Aaron's predicament and would still have had I known a little more a little sooner. Highly recommended.(less)
Sea Hearts is the story of an island community where seals frequent the seas and beaches. But there are some people - women, witches - who are born wi...moreSea Hearts is the story of an island community where seals frequent the seas and beaches. But there are some people - women, witches - who are born with a special affinity for and power over the seals. The old stories of the seal wives - women who have shed their seal skins and married fishermen - are made real on Rollrock Island. And it seems a man once entranced by a seal woman cannot be released. Or does not wish to be released - why else lock away the seal skins, thus preventing the women returning to the sea?
Lanagan teases out the consequences of this choice. Can it be considered a choice at all if it is an enchantment? Who has the power - the witch, the women, the men? And what of the children of these unions? Lanagan tells her story from the points of view of several of the children over several generations, culminating in a surprising turn of events, and a redemption of sorts.
A beautifully rendered telling of an old tale made new. Highly recommended.(less)
August is a boy born with a combination of genetic defects which have left him with a severely deformed face. His is a face which shocks all those who...moreAugust is a boy born with a combination of genetic defects which have left him with a severely deformed face. His is a face which shocks all those who he meets. But he is blessed with a loving family. We meet him when he is to start school for the first time - in year 5. The description of his pathway to friends - true and otherwise - and to ways and means of coping out there in the wide world is done very well. For better or worse all characters behave in believable ways, and the narrative (like August) is smart and funny and sad.
But this book really takes off for me when August's older sister, Via, gets a turn at telling her story. Beginning a new school for Year 9, Via is hoping for a new beginning but things don't go smoothly. Pretty normal and realistically portrayed stuff here as well, but Via is a good sister and dutiful daughter, to the extent that she is resigned to the fact that her brother's needs will always take precedence for her parents. But this cannot, in the end, change the way she feels. She needs parenting too.
As the series of narrative voices continues we hear from several other friends of both August and Via to fill out an interesting, mostly middle school story. Unfortunately we don't hear from Julian, the bully. That would have been interesting. The beauty of the story is seeing each character shift and learn as life goes on, but Julian doesn't make that leap, as far as we know.
Palacio has chosen a tough subject and moulded a strong and engaging story which succeeds in opening empathic paths in the reader.(less)
Fascinating autobiography. Winterson was a resilient and precocious child and adolescent who suffered under a crazy adoptive mother and passive adopti...moreFascinating autobiography. Winterson was a resilient and precocious child and adolescent who suffered under a crazy adoptive mother and passive adoptive father. This story is inspirational (and very entertaining!)(less)