Book Review: ‘The Amazing Mind of Alice Makin’ by Alan Shea

Book Title: The Amazing Mind of Alice Makin

Author: Alan Shea

Genre: Historical Fiction / Magic Realism

Summary: In the bleak post-war landscape of 1940s London, Alice’s imagination brings colour and excitement to the old bomb sites and rubble-littered streets. Yet in the company of her new friend Reggie, the imagination that drives her stories and provides them with entertainment becomes more real, and what is imagined becomes reality.

Favourite Scene: When Alice imagines the local bullies getting stuck in bubble gum – there is a gorgeous childish aspect to the humour that I found endearing!

Favourite Character: Norman – his imagination might not turn real, but it was so real for him (and Alice’s perspective indulged this) that I couldn’t help but remember playing with friends and anything – through our imaginations – was possible. Maybe that’s why I’m a writer now …

Review: There were, without a doubt, some gorgeous aspects to this novel. The characters are children – not teenagers wanting to be adults, but children who want to play and enjoy themselves. This is a childhood when old tins are full of treasures and the neighbours look out for them. The nostalgia for childhood is obvious in the narration – the innocence of a child, the power of the imagination, the desire to belong – which I found irritating at times because I saw it as cliché. While the plot was slow-moving and the ending very rushed and abrupt (please don’t tell me there’s a sequel … you know how I feel about sequels for the sake of sequels), the children and their imagined games and adventures were thoroughly enjoyable. I would be interested to know a child’s perspective of the book, as I feel my opinions around representations of childhood have given me bias against the novel. I simply cannot rave about The Amazing Mind of Alice Makin, but I can say that Norman is adorable!

Book Review: ‘The Game’ by Diana Wynne Jones

Book Title: The Game

Author: Diana Wynne Jones

Genre: Fantasy

Summary: Hayley has lived what feels like an eternity with her grandparents and, after upsetting her grandmother, is sent away to her Aunts and cousins in Ireland where she discovers she is not as alone as she thought she was. Traversing the mythosphere and contemporary England/Ireland, Hayley is drawn into The Game which, in turn, reveals the truth behind her parents’ disappearance and her isolated upbringing.

Favourite Scene: I loved the scene when Hayley first enters the mythosphere and witnesses the different myths taking place. Mythological stories have been well researched and recreated in this novel, and the first experience Hayley has in the mythosphere is a solid promise of things to come.

Favourite Character: Harmony.

Review: Diana Wynne Jones is considered a bit of a legend (mild understatement) in terms of writing magic and fantasy novels. I was first introduced to her work in the form of Howl’s Moving Castle a few years ago and fell in love with the detail she puts into every character and the beautiful descriptions she uses to create intricate settings. The Game, however, is my favourite of all her books – it is a testament to well-researched writing and a style of magic that is unique to the talent of Diana Wynn Jones. The appropriation of Greek (and a little Russian) mythology made for a unique story that may even be considered a tribute to the mythologies that influence fantasy writing today.

Diana Wynne Jones

Book Review: ‘Tinkers’ by Paul Harding

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Tinkers for the characters and for the intricate imagery Harding creates with his words. This is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel though it has a story of rejection and draw-lining status like many great novels whose discovery had to wait.

The novel follows the last days of a clock maker, George, as he lays dying and his world falls apart as he transcends time. At first I found it hard to sift through the dense language but once I got into the rhythm of the descriptions and the images that rose up from the pages I found it hard to put down – not for being a suspenseful page-turner (it’s not) but because the language draws you in and it’s hard to get back into the pages if you leave it for even a moment, harder still to leave it in the first place!

Overall I really enjoyed this novel; it is a perfect example of intricate simplicity.

Book Review: ‘The Ghost’s Child’ by Sonya Hartnett

This is a novel about life and death, love and loss … but it isn’t especially sad because the protagonist – regardless of the death and loss – has a beautiful way of perceiving her experiences. Sonya Hartnett is another of my favourite writers. There is something truly beautiful in her writing, regardless of which book you’re reading. She manages to sweep you up and away and completely absorb you – long after you’ve put the book down. The Ghost’s Child is the kind of novel that makes you weep for all the right reasons.

The novel follows the main character, Matilda, as she tells the story of her life to a boy who has appeared at her home. As she discloses the events in her life that brought her to this point, it’s easy to get caught up with the magic and poetry of Hartnett’s prose and I found the story especially resonated with me. I know I’ve been searching for the most beautiful thing in the world for a very long time …

This is the kind of book that’s easy to read but leaves you feeling like you’ve run a marathon at the end – you’ve accomplished something that you can feel deep in the thrumming of your heart and you wonder if you can ever properly communicate the experience. The Ghost’s Child was an especially moving novel which I enjoyed; I cried for Feather, I cried for Matilda, and I cried for myself.