Thursday, August 20, 2009
booking through thursday
AH! Just the right question!
What’s the best book you’ve read recently?
It's not technically a children's or YA book, but the protagonist is a child throughout the entire book (I think he's around 14 at the end).
THE INGENIOUS EDGAR JONES, by Elizabeth Garner.
Set in early-mid nineteenth century Oxford, this is an absolute dream of a book. I read it through in just about a day; it was like I was in a trance. I mean, a deeper trance than I usually am in when I'm reading.
It's a peculiar little book, almost more of a place-and-character study than a true plot-driven novel. But the moments when the text does ramble feel so entirely appropriate to the dreamy tone of the book in general that you hardly notice them. It's hard for me to even think of Garner, of an author - this is a book that has been dreamed and drifted into the world so beautifully it doesn't feel constructed at all. This is, of course, a major sign of brilliant craftsmanship.
Edgar is a compelling but always mysterious character; his parents are both sympathetic and pitiable, even, at times, loathsome. The others who inhabit the novel - very, very few actually inhabit Edgar's world - are an intriguing mix. Garner gets the tone of the early Victorian period just right, but the world of Oxford's dreaming spires is, in fact, dreamy, shadowy, full of invisible, or barely visible forces that border on the supernatural or magical. This is not a fantasy; there are no cabals of magicians, no faerie, no elves. It isn't even the magical realism of garcia marquez, though the book shares some of the hazy, beautiful qualities of 100 Years of Solitude.
The novel's conclusion is not an ending, in any sense. it is just the fading away of the dream-narrative. The nearest comparison I could make, especially with the novel's conclusion, is to Todd Haynes' amazing film Poison.
Totally captivating, this is the kind of book you want to simultaneously treasure and hoard and keep as a jewel-like secret, along with shouting from the rooftops of how great it is.