(It’s a long time since I read this so please forgive slightly vague summary… ) A teenage Holly Sykes runs away from home, and in a slightly odd conversation with an old woman, becomes a part of an eternal conflict between magical forces of good and evil. Throughout her life she is drawn into their battles, as she (and many other characters) also just lives her normal life.
I read Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell a few years ago and was enthralled. The masterful skill of weaving the different stories within one book, making them link together and above all making each and every one of them completely and utterly compelling astounded me. Here, Mitchell attempts the same sort of thing but, disappointingly, to lesser effect. I found myself ploughing through some of the stories in order to get to the plot bits, rather than actually enjoying them. Arguably, it is showing that the magic bits are just a part of a whole life; we’re giving the boring, normal and human bits as well, but I feel like such a masterful storyteller could have made them a bit more interesting.
These days I get to read a whole load of new books, which usually keeps me distracted – but these three books keep popping up on twitter, in bookshops and all over the place, and I really want to read them!
Jack, a dying man, entrusts a peacock pendant to his granddaughter, charging her to return it to it’s owner. The book opens different windows on the pendant’s history: Jack’s attempt to give it to the woman he loves after recovering it from a train of confiscated Jewish goods after the war; his disappointed and divorced granddaughter teaming up with a dealer of valuable goods and their growing mutual attraction, and the psychologist whose attempts to help the outspoken young Magyar woman whose dangerous political escapades with her tiny, passionate friend provoke in him an unspoken love.
It is interesting that, like my last reviewed book The Goldfinch, a central theme to this novel is a treasure: a possession that captivates people’s hearts and minds. But in each strand of the story, here, the pendant is not the focus, serving as a mystery and connection that hovers on the edge of the humans whose stories are told.