Tell The Story to its End: A Maniacal Book Club Review…

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manical book club button

The team has come together again to bring you our thoughts on an intriguing middle-grade offering that acknowledges the power of stories to manipulate the mundane world.  We received a copy of Tell the Story to its End (which also goes by the title Eren) by Simon P. Clark from the publisher via Netgalley, and were pleased to discover an atmospheric and nicely paced tale that lulls the reader into a place of comfort…or does it? Mwahahahaha!

Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

People are keeping secrets from Oli. His mum has brought him to stay with his aunt and uncle in the countryside, but nobody will tell him why his dad where his father is. Why isn’t he with them? Has something happened? Oli has a hundred questions, and only an old, empty house in the middle of an ancient forest for answers. But then he finds a secret of his own: there is a creature that lives in the attic…

Eren is not human.
Eren is hungry for stories.
Eren has been waiting for him.

Sharing his stories with Eren, Oli starts to make sense of what’s happening downstairs with his family. But what if it’s a trap? Soon, Oli must make a choice: learn the truth—or abandon himself to Eren’s world, forever.

Reminiscent of SKELLIG by David Almond and A MONSTER CALLS by Patrick Ness, EREN is richly atmospheric, moving, unsettling, and told in gorgeous prose. A modern classic in the making.

Here are the two versions of the cover:

tell the story to its end

eren

And here’s the Club’s thoughts:

Guru Dave

If you fail to master your words, your wordsmaniacal book club guru dave may become your master.  Such is the power of stories, fables, myths, to change the way we think, the way we act and the way we are.  Are we the product of our ancestors’ stories or do we create our own narrative? What happens to the stories that have faded from human memory? And is the book always better than the movie?  These are the questions that Oli will explore with his new, mysterious friend, Eren. Well. Except for that last one.

Toothless

maniacal book club toothlessThere are no dragons in this book.  But there is a cool talking cat and a king of trees and a strange winged guy called Eren who hides in attics and really likes stories.  He sounds a bit like Bruce really.  There’s not a lot of whiz-bang action in this book.  It would have been better if Eren was the kind of monster that eats people.  There was a cool story about a witch too.  This was an okay book but it would have been better with dragons.

Mad Martha

There once was a boy called Oli,maniacal book club martha

Who truly enjoyed a good sto’ry,

Do he and his friends,

Come to grief in the end?

You’ll just have to read to be sure-y.

*Toothless interjects: Worst. Limerick. Ever. *

Bruce

You know how books often have some comparison on the cover, like “if you liked *insert series name here*, then you’ll love this!” or “for fans of *insert author here*”.  Most of the time, the book ends up being nothing like the assertion, but Tell the Story to its End really IS a lot like the work of David Almond.  If you enjoy the feel of Almond’s work, then I can assure you that this book has a very similar narrative style, comparable pacing and more than a touch of the ol’ magical realism.

This book isn’t going to appeal to all readers in the target age bracket, but will certainly suit those who like a slow-burn mystery and stories-within-stories.  Oli is your average young lad who finds himself suddenly moving to the country with his mother, to live with her brother, for reasons that he’s not exactly clear about.  His mother is keeping some sort of secret about his father, and while Oli puzzles this out, he discovers the mysterious Eren living in the attic.

The addition of two other young folk, Em and Takeru, whom Oli befriends, deepens the plot as local legends are brought to light.  As the situation with Oli’s father comes out in bits and pieces, Oli finds himself drawn more deeply into Eren’s world and influence.  The reader is kept in a cloud of obscurity surrounding who Eren really is and whether he knows more of Oli’s family than he is saying.  The ending was surprising (to me, at least!) but felt quite fitting for the style of story.

The Book Club gives this book:

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Three thumbs up (Toothless wanted more fiery destruction)

I feel pretty safe in corroborating the claim in the blurb, that fans of David Almond should certainly enjoy Clark’s work here.  This is one for those who savour an enigmatic approach to storytelling.

Until next time,

Bruce and the Gang

The Rabbit Back Literature Society: A Read-it-if Review…

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imageTime for a Read-it-if and if you are open-minded enough to dive into an adult fiction, magical realism-based, English translation from a Finnish author, then you’ve come to the right place!  I have had my beady eyeballs on The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen for quite a considerable amount of time and when it popped up on Netgalley for Australian reviewers I jumped on it quick smart.  Having read it, I’m a bit bemused at least as much by the fact that it is the first book featuring magical realism that I really got into and enjoyed, as by the perversely amusing (and disturbing) events of the narrative.  Off we go then.

The Rabbit Back Literature Society was founded by famous children’s author Laura White to identify and mentor promising young writers in the Finnish town of Rabbit Back, in the hope that they would one day become Finland’s most prominent authors.  With nine members being selected as children, it comes as a surprise to everyone when Ella Milana – a secondary school literature teacher on a temporary contract – is selected decades later as the Society’s tenth member.  But during the welcome soiree, Laura White mysteriously disappears in front of most of the folk of Rabbit Back, and Ella Milana is left in the dark about her place in the Society – except for the slightly sinister Game that all members are invited to play.  As Ella Milana engages her fellow society members in The Game, old wounds and forgotten secrets are brought to light, and the mystery of Laura White’s dramatic exit becomes the least of anyone’s worries.

rabbit back literature societyRead it if:

* you like writing. Or snacking at all hours. Or dogs. Or snacking at all hours while writing, as the neighbourhoods’ dogs mass outside your front gate.

* you enjoy Finnish humour. (Unsure if you enjoy Finnish humour? Read this book and find out)

* you like the idea of a book plague, wherein books start infecting other books with their stories and jumbling up the original narrative

* you’d love the opportunity to really ask your favourite author some tough and revealing questions and have them give a completely truthful response

I have had a reasonably poor relationship with novels dealing in magical realism, it must be said.  This one however, I truly enjoyed.  I suspect it’s because there is a very nice balance between the magical and the realism here – the magical bit permeates a lot of the story, but it does so politely, so that I didn’t feel jerked around with random weird stuff happening at random unexpected moments for no reason at all.  I also tend to have a pretty ordinary relationship with translations, but this one hit the spot in my opinion.

To be honest, I don’t think this book is going to appeal to everyone.  For a start, it felt like a hefty read to me (although as I was reading it on the Kindle I couldn’t tell how fat the actual printed book is) and one that would best be read over a period of time, rather that devoured quickly.  There’s also a fair few bits in which the reader must suspend their disbelief (there’s the magical realism bit, rearing its magically realistic head).  And ultimately, not all the loose ends are tied up by the book’s conclusion. In fact, hardly any of them are.

But for some reason, the combination of offbeat (and often dark) humour, the unfamiliar experience of reading about Finnish characters, and the multiple twists and turns in the narrative made this a pretty satisfying read for me.  The characters are simultaneously completely believable and downright unlikely and I admit to developing a soft spot for Marti Winter, the once-handsome, now obese author of note, who enjoys elaborate pastries, suffers from various social phobias and is inexplicably plagued by dogs.  I would certainly give this one a go if the blurb interests you.  There was a lot of tidbits in it that I found unaccountably funny and there were also a few bits where I was mildly disgusted but overall this book was original enough in storyline and just odd enough (without becoming too strange) in content to get my tick of approval.

The downside of enjoying this book of course is that now Goodreads seems to be recommending a whole lot of books written in Finnish.  I did mention this was a translation, right? Goodreads, please take note.

Until next time,

Bruce