Jean Deforte has found a caterpillar. But lost his little sister. It's a difficult year. Father is dying and mother has sent him to an English school. Nobody likes Jean because he is half French. The girls are laughing. The teachers are on his back. The bullies are waiting in the hallways. Unluckily for Jean there are worse things than bullies: There are vacant black holes in the corners of his mind. There are darker things that would gladly fill them. Jean is about to discover that his school is more foreign than he could possibly imagine. Behind the stockroom door there are other classrooms. Classrooms where paper planes carry passengers, statues cry and board games cost your life, books ask you questions. There are endless dusty corridors, back ways, cellars and chimney flues, hidden rooms, and garrets and just occasionally you might find a pupil running for his life. Better join him. Jean knows his little sister is here. But is she hiding or helping? Is she alive or dead? In point of fact is Jean alive or dead? It's a question that the enigmatic Moonster might answer. But he is trying to get out, not in. Jean's quest to find her becomes a personal journey. A journey to the door of the Seventh Silence. A rite of passage, a symbolic journey through Hades, the struggle between good and evil, the adventure of appearance and reality? There is something here of Dante, Peake, Carroll. Add a little Kafka, Philip K. Dick and Conrad and you will have guessed that this is not a book for children - unless like Jean they are very brave.
I was born in Edinburgh. As a youth, I tried a few different career paths: labourer, clerk, gardener, salesman, barman, doorman. I was the singer and songwriter in the punk band, the Androids. I played Querelle in an avant-garde Mime Company for three years, performing a controversial adaptation of Genet’s novel banned by the Scottish Kirk. These occupations betrayed a similar pattern: Initial enthusiasm, bemusement, claustrophobic terror.
Europe beckoned. I hitched from the southern tip of Spain to the northern flats of Holland with a fiver sewn in my jacket, worked the Paris Metro as a busker and bottled Cafes in the south of France, Belgium and Holland, picked grapes near Perpignon, swam naked in mountain pools. It was fun being young.
I settled down in Manchester where I became a street trader. I sold coats, watches and virtually anything cheap. Sometimes the watches worked. Later I stewarded on the Oil Rigs in the North Sea. I then found my music again. I taught myself fiddle, banjo, mandolin, penny whistle and piano. Unfortunately, after some good times in various folk duos, I lost it again. I became a Philosophy and Sociology teacher in a Manchester grammar school where I rediscovered my innate horror of authority.
After my marriage failed, I ditched it all. I played banjo in Irish bars in Savannah, Georgia, Jazz bars and Riverboats in New Orleans. Then left for Germany where after a period of solo work in German kneipen I arranged the songs for, and toured with, the Dance Spectacular ‘Celtic Life’.
Latterly, I joined the traditional band Scapa Flow and was lucky enough to get a Folk CD into the BBC Indie Charts in 2004. This provided much amusement for my teenage kids but ultimately, failed to pay the rent.
I live in Edinburgh, Scotland with my partner and two of my four children.
It was not a bad book, but I can't say that I loved it. It felt like someone telling me their dream. It felt very personal and that the author could see and feel everything about the story they were telling, but it didn't quite get through to me in that way. I'd say it was more of a compatibility problem with me, rather than a fault of the book.
The descriptions were never quite enough for the setting, the characters, the atmosphere etc to leap off the page. It dabbled in some interesting issues, but it didn't really go deep enough (possibly due to it being a children's book, but it really barely dipped its toe into certain pools). I didn't think Jean was a particularly strong lead and I found his thought processes and speech frustrating and unlikable.
It did have an interesting adventure aspect, some 'scenes' were fun and some of the ambiguity was a nice change, but I couldn't really get fully into it and I found myself not really caring if he found Papillon or not. It also went on a little too long, and I found myself thinking it might've been better as a short film (it needed a bigger visual aspect).