Thursday, 7 November 2013
Friday, 1 November 2013
Life in Kinvara seems to go as usual, except it isn’t. Time is slipping away too fast and people never seem to have enough of it. There is a new policeman in town, but he’s not so sure he’s right for the job and he’d rather play his fiddle in the pub than investigate crimes. Then there’s 15-year-old JJ Liddy who bears his mother’s family name with pride (The Liddys have been for their music and their ceili for years), until one day his friend tells him his great-grandfather murdered a priest, and he’s not sure about being a Liddy anymore. He doesn’t know anything about his family’s past and now his mother realises it’s time to tell him the truth. But soon JJ realises there’s more at stake than his family pride. His determination to buy more time for his mother, as she asked for her birthday present, brings him to the edge of reality in a quest to fix time and fulfil his mother’s wishes.
This was a multi-layered story that was satisfying on many levels. It was filled with humour, with characters instantly easy to love, with an almost tangible love for music and for dancing and for communal traditions carried forward for generations with love and pride. And then there was a not-so-subtle criticism towards the present times, or the present at the time of the novel, when Ireland was at the height of its economic boom, which happened so sudden and so fast that it had earned the name Celtic tiger. No one had time for anything anymore, except making money, buying houses and cars and climbing the career ladder. This was not a huge part of the story but it did linger there, understated, until the ending, when it becomes more obvious.
But what I loved the most was the new take on the Irish “Gods”. I especially loved Angus and the Dagda, and Bran the dog, and everything that had to do with them. I was slightly concerned about JJ, because unlike him, I did remembered what happened to Oisin in the legends. But still, you don’t need to know too much about old Irish sagas to enjoy this. If anything, it’d make you want to read more about them. But even if this was the only book you’d ever read about them, I think it’d be a good one.
The ending was the cherry on the cake. You find out who the new policeman really is and even though I had an inkling, I hadn’t guessed the full story, and it’s brilliant!
Tuesday, 29 October 2013
Tuesday, 22 October 2013
Neil Gaiman is not just one of my favourite authors. I look up to him. I agree with almost every he says about life and about reading, about art, about writing. I haven’t always enjoyed everything he’s written, but I’ve always taken a sort of comforting pleasure knowing that he exists and he’s still writing, still being a wonderful human being. And yet, I always approach his new works (as I do any other work by a beloved author) with a certain degree of caution. I suppose it’s the fear of being disappointed, of having to admit that, even though you love the man, you didn’t love the book. Or that you did like it, but weren’t blown away by it like you wanted to. In Neil Gaiman's case, anything short of that, would be a slight disappointment I’m so glad to say that this wasn’t the case.[ warning: slight spoilers ahead]
It started out quite slow for me. Well, slow for the first 3 or 4 pages. But remember, expectations! Then it got interesting and gripping, but still not completely AMAZING, and so it stayed until almost half way through it. I was prepared to give it 4 stars on my Librarything, which is the rating I give to books I enjoyed quite a lot, but had just a tiny bit of awesome missing. Then I kept reading and Lettie Hempstock saves our young narrator’s ass one more time, but this time it’s a lot more impressive and I’m like OK this is definitely a 4.5 stars at least! And then all of a sudden the awesome button was switched on, and I was swept away by it. I’m not sure when it happened. It could have been when our little one is plunged into the ocean pond and is filled with the knowledge of the universe and of all things. Or when the Hempstocks work the snip and cut magic on the narrator’s father. Or basically everything that happens until the epic finale. OLD MRS HEMPSTOCK, people. Oh my crackers, I didn’t expect to love her that much. But she totally had a serious case of Kicking Ass, what with all the glowing and the silver hair and the commanding voice and the baddies going all scaredy cats in front of her and going fuck this shit we’re out of here. It reminded me of my favourite moment of an anime I used to watch when I was little, about this group of travellers who went around medieval Japan and encountering all sorts of shenanigans, and at first the baddies always went ha ha you can’t stop us, you’re only a bunch of misfits losers, but then at the end the old man in the group always took out his Shogun symbol, a talisman or something, the theme music played and all the baddies went “oh shit, it’s the Shogun” and bowed in front of him. Except Old Mrs Hempstock is even better then the Shogun as the power is within her. We don’t know exactly who she is or how she came to be. Just like we don’t know how old or exactly who is Lettie or Ginnie. Old Mrs Hempstock claims to have been there when the moon was being made, and I tend to believe it’s true. But I like that we’re not told exactly who this wonderful family is. They could be called goddesses, a triad of powerful beings, that are essentially one single being represented in three forms, the maiden, the mother and the crone. But even to think of defining their identities feels like diminishing their power as characters. Their farm is as bit like Rivendell, the last homely house in the Lord of the Rings. Nothing bad can happen in it. Everything and everyone feels welcoming and safe and comforting. Food is always ready and is the most delicious food you can think of, there is always a full moon shining on your bedroom, and you don’t need to worry about anything. Outside, they still exude power, but they’re not invincible. At least, Lettie isn’t, even though the seven-year-old narrator would have trusted her to bring him safely out of hell. Which she does essentially, but at what cost…
I loved the epilogue. I did wish we could have had another encounter with Lettie. I want to know if she’s really OK. I wanted to see her. But it’s probably more perfect this way. Melancholic like the beginning, but a little bit more hopeful. I agree with Ana that it felt like home, like knowing to be in safe, known territory. This is what I love and I can’t get enough of it. It also felt a lot like reading another author I love and whom I should read more, Charles de Lint. He’s also fond of powerful women with strange powers, or scary beings and wonderful otherworldly atmospheres.
Now that it’s over, I wish this isn’t the end for the Hempstock family. I need more of them. I want to read a whole series about them. And read their adventures on comic books and any other form. And why isn’t there more fanart out there?
To conclude, I’d like to point you out to this post about the female representation in the book. It’s really quite good.