With fascination, Davie and his friend Geordie watch the arrival of a new boy, Stephen Rose, in their town. He seems to have come from nowhere, and when he arrives to live with his distant aunt, the local ‘loony’, ‘Crazy Mary’, no one envies his new home.
But perhaps he’s the answer to Davie and Geordie’s prayers – a secret weapon in their war against monstrous Mouldy and his gang Intrigued, Davie and Geordie befriend Stephen. But they are heading innocently down a path that brings with it a monster of an entirely unexpected nature.
Their encounter with the mysterious Stephen is as incredible as it is menacing, and as the true story of Stephen’s past slowly emerges, Davie’s life is changed forever.
When I saw Chris from Stuff as Dreams are Made on, had acquired this one around the same time as I did, I almost immediately inquired about a buddy-review, which he agreed to so here we are. We decided to ask 3 questions each and then answer them all on our blogs. So don’t forget to visit his blog when you’re done here!
It pains me to say this, but I didn’t enjoy this on, nearly as much as I normally enjoy Almond’s work, and I think a lot of that was down to the fact I never really fully connected emotionally with it. Sure there was a lot to admire. The story was great, the protagonist likable, there’s a sweet first romance, and it was as intelligent a young adult read as you could wish for. But something just did not click.
What was preventing me from connecting? I’m really not sure… But it may be down to I was never sure how literally I was supposed to take the story. Stephen, the antagonist is able to hypnotise his guardian, is he doing that to Davie? Is Davie therefore imagining some of what is happening. I think you are meant to question this, but it just did not quite work for me.
However an Almond that doesn’t quite hit the mark is still a wondrous thing!
Here are my answers to Chris’s questions:
What did you think of the ambiance/mood of the book?
As I said in my mini review above, I didn’t quite connect with this one, so that colours some of my thoughts on this, I thought it was good, and it was clever to shift the moods, to something much darker, but because I was never quite sure just how literal we were meant to take everything, it wasn’t as effective as it could have been.
Did you have any sympathy for Stephen, the antagonist of the book?
An interesting question this one, because he is the antagonist and as the story develops, very deserving of that title, however in the beginning he appears to have led a very difficult life. It’s clear that as the story develops though that Stephen is a skilled manipulator who you can’t trust. So in truth, I’m not sure!
What, if anything did you think Almond had to say about religion with this book?
I think Almond asks the reader to question quite a bit about what is important in religion, but leaves it open for the reader to decide what they think. One thing theme I picked up on was that you didn’t necessarily need ‘church’ to have ‘faith’ and being ‘church’ doesn’t automatically give you ‘faith’. Neither is right or wrong. But he is clearly making wanting you to ‘think’ about things…
And here are my answers to the questions I asked Chris.
Do you have a favourite section to share?
I was going to post the scene, where Davie and Maria watch the frog get eaten, but I decided that out of context it might come across a bit gruesome… (Despite it being a wonderfully written scene)
So I’m going to post a scene that takes place a few moments earlier.
Just a bit of scene setting, Davie, has taken school friend Maria for ‘a walk’… The prat that is mentioned is Mr Prat their art teacher who has a penchant for the more philosophical aspects of teaching art…
We walked on. We approached Braddock’s Garden. We looked across at Crazy Mary’s house. I let my hand touch Maria’s hand. I looked into the sky. So blue. The clouds so dazzling white. I tipped my head back and narrowed my eyes,
‘What you doing?’ said Maria.
‘Do you think you could think that clouds were angels?’ I asked.
‘You could think anything was anything,’ she said. ‘It’s how your mind works. Prat’s a prat but he’s right. We could imagine just about anything.’
We walked on.I asked Kelly this same question when we reviewed Kit’s Wilderness together… What did you think of the setting? Could you picture it in your mind? What did you think of the accents? (Why, yes I am cheating and using 3 questions in 1!)
Well, again as I said to Kelly, my dad’s family come from that area, so picturing it and the people is almost a given But I will say he does a great job, and I most enjoyed his use of accent in this one, because I knew you’d be trying to get your head around some of it!
Edit: And I was right! Chris was confused by the phrase ‘Howay!’ so for Chris it basically means ‘Come on!’
Almond, chooses not to answer most of the questions he poses in the book. What do you think about that?
I think it’s a perfect choice for the book, the questions he asks and the concepts he asks us to think about, should not be answered by anyone other than the reader, if he did it would just be dogma, and you’d end up taking nothing from the book. Individual thoughts and opinions are clearly what Almond is trying to encourage.