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Thursday, 29 September 2011

The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai

Sorry about the white background, which seems to happen if I copy from a word document - no idea why.

This is a very well-written book, which will appeal to the literary-minded and to book lovers everywhere. A homage to a childhood of books, and examples of their power pepper this story in which a librarian is abducted by a child.(Those who say it is the other way round have missed the point, the child is kidnapping the world of books in my view.)If you liked "Matilda" as a child, then you will probably enjoy this.

Ian is the book-mad ten year old who hides out in the library, and Lucy the librarian who wants to 'save' him from the homophobic Christian sect his parents have become involved with. The characters of Ian and Lucy are complex and not easily pigeon-holed; at times the reader is pleasantly confused as to who is the adult and who is the child during their extended Road Trip through most of America. But this is like life, and feels refreshingly honest. The journey itself is somewhat aimless, and for me this is the only weak point of the book, that the middle seemed a little too long, but then the plot soon picked up again and I was once more hooked.

If you are an evangelical Christian, then you may have to consider if it is for you, as the fundamentalist parents and Pastor Bob, who wants to rehabilitate gay teenagers back to the straight and narrow are truly gruesome. However, I do not feel the book is deliberately anti-Christian.I feel that Makkai made the choice she did for a reason - some Christians use what is written in a book to determine their behaviour, and say the B

ook is the literal truth. What Makkai is pointing out is that in the end it is only a book, written on paper, like every other book in the library. And as such, the child (or anyone) could always choose other literature as their raison d'etre. At the same time Makkai shows how real events become fictionalised (as in the Bible) by including an episode from Lucy's father's and grandfather's past where exactly this happens, and the real events grow into something more than they were.

In short, this is an intelligent novel, one to make you think about the power of books. Definitely worth discussing in a reading group, and spending your money on. I look forward to reading Makkai's next.

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