Just this year we were blessed with Kate Thompson’s award winning fantasy novel. It was published in the UK in 2005 where it won the Guardian’s Children’s Fiction Prize.
While it has been around the US all year getting glowing reviews, I finally got around to reading it this weekend. One of the reasons I kept putting it off is that it is a massive work – 435 pages. Looks are deceiving because this book moves quickly. The pages have wide margins & chapters are very short. Additionally, scores for traditional Irish songs separate each chapter. (The author also submits a few of her own songs.) The song titles work as chapter summaries in one of several brilliant twists of the book. “Last Night’s Fun” “The Lad That Can Do It” “The Setting Sun” “The Green Mountain” “My Mind Will Never Be Easy”. So awesome. I wish I were better at reading music. Come to think of it, the tunes better be included in the audio book.
J.J., our teen hero, wants to “buy more time” for his mom. It’s not that she’s sick or anything, but that everyone everywhere just doesn’t seem to have enough time in their day anymore. Busses are perpetually late, chores aren’t getting finished, & there’s never enough time to practice music. So J.J. decides that solving where the time is going will make things better. On top of this, J.J. has finally been exposed to the alleged criminal behavior of his Great-Grandfather, who was also named J.J. It seemed a little far fetched that he knew nothing of this, but I let it slide. Guys can be a little slow on these things. So we have a quest and a sketchy family secret. Good times ahead!
The story is a love song to Ireland. J.J.’s quest involves the rich Irish traditions of music, folktales, and fairies. I didn’t have difficulty with the story even though my familiarity with Irish stories is pretty nil. There’s a glossary in the back, but don’t read it in advance. Just wait it out and then go back and reread what you need to. The book made me want to play music (which I do not do) and drink pots of tea (which I love to do). And beer. And have some homemade cheese to go with all that. Treat yourself to this novel. You have plenty of time.