Matthew Lloyd's Reviews > Every Heart a Doorway

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
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really liked it
bookshelves: oxford-county-library, published-2016, hugo-award-2017

The basic idea behind Seanan McGuire's Every Heart a Doorway seems so simple and obvious that it boggles the mind that in the one-hundred and fifty years since Alice fell down a rabbit hole, or the sixty-five years since the Pevensie children first went to Narnia there doesn't appear to have been a novel like it. Or maybe there are dozens, but, like Every Heart a Doorway, they don't quite capture the imagination enough to feel like classics in the way that Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass or The Chronicles of Narnia do (although I do think that Every Heart a Doorway is far, far better than the Narnia books that I managed to get through). The opening of the novel, the introduction to Eleanor West's School for Wayward Children, and the metaphor that equates travelling to other worlds to momentous childhood/young adult experiences from the traumatic to the delightful are all fantastic. But there are moments that are curiously lacking in depth. There's a lot of talk about bodies, but not a lot of reflection on what they really mean; there are poignant reflections on death in general, but less so on the deaths that actually occur in the book. It does not get quite as bad as The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, which my brother once described as "more like a collection of notes for a story than an actual story", but I was left with the feeling that this particular tale could have done with more time to develop.

I do not mean to say that I think Every Heart a Doorway is a bad book; far from it. Only that, for me, it fails to quite capture what I believe this idea could have been. As far as prose, characters, and core premise are concerned the book is (generally) excellent. Sumi, the protagonist's roommate who went to a world of high nonsense, is particularly well-crafted and fun; Jack and Jill suitably creepy; many of the other minor characters suggesting well-rounded characters that we do not quite get to see. I wish that there had been more of Eleanor West herself. Encountering these characters, their many different experiences, and the different ways in which their desire to "go home" manifests, is a delight. But the genre - for I think it should be a genre - of books around the journey to Wonderland - before, after, or those left behind - has not been exhausted by Every Heart a Doorway. I look forward to its sequels.
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Reading Progress

July 18, 2015 – Shelved
July 18, 2015 – Shelved as: to-read
September 23, 2015 – Shelved as: to-read-do-not-own
September 23, 2015 – Shelved as: to-read-do-not-own
August 23, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
August 23, 2016 – Shelved as: oxford-county-library
August 24, 2016 – Shelved as: published-2016
August 26, 2016 – Started Reading
August 29, 2016 – Finished Reading
April 4, 2017 – Shelved as: hugo-award-2017

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