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Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Thursday, 28 March 2019

"The Stolen Child" by Keith Donohue

Hobgoblins steal a little boy and replace him with one of their own, a changeling. In alternate chapters we follow the life of the stolen boy as he becomes a hobgoblin and adapts to the life of the tribe of hobgoblins in the forest on the edge of the town, stealing and foraging to live, and never growing old. We also follow the life of the changeling as he grows from little boy into musical prodigy and rebellious teenager and musician and man. Both hobgoblin and changeling have to try and find the child they used to be in this very different take on the search for our identity.

It seems to me that the greater demand that an author makes on our willingness to suspend our disbelief, the more detail is necessary. Science fiction writers talk about world-creation and this book too requires a richly imagined detailed creation of a world with its own rules. But whereas (usually bad) writers give you all the world creation in a more-or-less indigestible lump, Donohue drip-feeds it in so that the reader is lulled into believing this weird world. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the tribe of hobgoblins: Beka, the only one stolen after he had passed puberty and thus the only boy to be able to have sex although the others can and do form romantic friendships, Speck, the newest but one and thus nearly at the bottom of the hierarchy, who can stand up for herself and for others and show a great deal of kindness and empathy, the two Italian boys and the thoughtful but cigarette addicted Luchog. This was a great band of kids.

I wasn't quite as keen on the real humans. Nevertheless, Donohue can certainly create memorable characters. My only problem was that I found it difficult to care about them. I enjoyed their antics but I didn't really empathise with their fears. 

He has some great lines:
  • Those rare souls baffled by their young lives or attuned to the weeping troubles of this world.” (C1)
  • Her face betrayed her every emotion: blotchy skin, chapped with salty tears, her pale blue eyes rimmed in red, her hair matted and disheveled.” (C1)
  • They were mere tots, with more teeth than sentences, and could not articulate the mysteries of their young minds.” (C1)
  • Matters in the forest were far more existential. Living depended on sharpening instincts, not memorizing facts.” (C3)
  • The more adept my skill and understanding grew, the more I realized the power of musical phrasing in everyday life. The trick involves getting people to listen to the weak beats and seemingly insignificant silences between notes, the absence of tones between tones.” (C7)
  • How will we ever find our way back home if we never leave home? ... How can we ever avoid danger if we don't know what danger is?” (C9)
  • You only knew part of the story. There's more to a salmon than the fin.” (C13)
  • The guy with the deja vu face.” (C13)
  • Dreams are ... and you cannot will them away, any more than you can call them into being. You have to decide whether to act upon them or let them vanish.” (C23)
  • You want to be a great composer, but you never write a song ... true art is less about all the wanting-to-be bullshit, and more about practice. Just play the music, baby.” (C23)
  • He’s a tockless clock.” (C34)

An interesting and unusual novel. March 2019; 319 pages

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