Daniel, a boy of ten, is taken by his bookseller father to visit the "cemetery of books", which is a sort of private library of rare and out-of-print works being preserved just for the love of the books themselves. He's told to choose one, which he must then be responsible for. The book he takes contains a story which grips him so much that he determines to find out what he can about the author. Initially he can't find anyone who's heard of him, but as he persists, he starts to uncover a story which is even more disturbing than that of the novel.
The book has a gothic flavour to it, but also made me think of Gabriel Garcia Marquez because it has a sort of magical, unreal, quality to it. It's also funny, as well as being a mystery - who is the stranger who tries to persuade Daniel to sell the book to him? Why has someone been trying to find all the extant copies of the books and burn them?
I liked the fact that the author wasn't reluctant to kill off significant characters in the book; it meant that you never felt certain how things would pan out, because you weren't able to rely on anyone staying the distance.
But what's best about the book is the way that the story that Daniel begins to uncover about Julian, the lost author, seems to have parallels with Daniel's own life. And the more he finds out, the more it seems that what happened to Julian presages events which befall Daniel. As Daniel meets people who have had something to do with Julian, they each tell a bit more of Julian's history, but this means that the two interlinked stories (Daniel's and Julians's) become blurred - I couldn't always keep track of what had happened to the Julian and what to Daniel. This I think was intentional, but it was very effective.
Really good, despite being a Richard and Judy pick.
Completed : 05-Jan-2006
Re-read as an audiobook:
I got this as an audiobook from the library for Lesley, but when it came, I had no other audiobooks so listened to it myself. Hearing the book again so soon after having read it I was surprised at how much I'd forgotten of the plot, and how much I'd remembered. It wasn't nearly so impressive this time: partly that's because the reader, Daniel (appropriate name) Philpott, was not very good: he didn't do voices and his expression was sometimes odd.
It also seemed this time that the plot was rather too structured: it reminded me a bit of playing Silent Hill 2: the first time, it feels like you're freely exploring and uncovering secrets; the second time, it's obvious that you're being guided through a particular series of events and you never really had any other way to go. It was worth reading again, but maybe not so soon.
Completed : 04-Apr-2006 (audiobook)