22 September, 2009

Book 25 - Night Singing, or: "Who was that crazy person? Did you know her?"

This may not come as a surprise to anyone who has heard My Thoughts On Twilight, but I continue to wonder how it is that authors who can not actually write to save their lives become so popular! Twilight, for example, is pretty much pure cat dirt, and yet there is something about it which makes it pretty difficult to put down. Luckily I was mostly immune to its sensual charms, and after the ten millionth time Bella complained about how her life sucked soooooo much I finally threw it across the room and out of my life. Sadly, as I was reading it on my laptop, this dramatic gesture turned out to be quite expensive.

You know who else write a lot of dross? Dan Brown! I actually kind of enjoyed the Da Vinci Code, and I thought the movie was better than the book (possibly because I grew up on a diet of B-grade action/suspense movies) but Angels and Demons made me absolutely livid in ways that I can't even describe and will have to explain instead through the magic of MS Paint.

You tell 'em, Badly Drawn Hulk! Anyway, the only reason I bring up the subject of Authors Who Can't Actually Write is because of my incredibly awesome Link of the Day: Dan Brown's 20 Worst Sentences. I particularly enjoyed all the angry comments down the bottom.

Someone who can actually write to save her life is Kierin Meehan!

Title: Night Singing (2003)

Author: Kierin Meehan

Why this book?
Because I absolutely adored her first book, Hannah's Winter - and Night Singing did not disappoint!

So what's it all about anyway?
Josh has broken his leg and is bored stiff at home, unable to go to school - or even leave the house much. Then Isabelle, a girl from the circus, comes crashing into his life, and things start to get interesting. For one thing, Isabelle has offered him six tickets to the circus; and for another, she doesn't see other people in quite the same way as Josh does.

Josh is horrified when Isabelle starts bringing around kids from his class - not Josh's friends, but the loser kids, like quiet Reesie, Tim (who's actually in the choir), and Arundel, who everyone knows is trouble. And when Isabelle announces her intention of winning this year's Christmas Concert Josh knows she won't - after all, the resident bully Nasty Natalie dances to victory every single year.

Then Mr Vas, a clown in Isabelle's circus, tells her a story about the Moon Rabbit, and a terrible tragedy that destroyed the world. The story is perfect for the concert - but to Josh there seems to be something more to it. His neighbour, the elderly Mrs Murakami, often tells stories about the Moon Rabbit; and the same pattern that appears in her sketch book turns up in Mr Vas' paintings. What great tragedy lies in their past - and what does it have to do with Isabelle's play...?

The Good and the Bad
There were a few loose threads at the end of the book which irritated me a little - Meehan leaves the reader knowing the shape of things, but without giving us the actual details, which was kind of unsatisfying - what happens to Arundel, who has been abandoned by his family? Is he really related to circus folk? Does Natalie get her comeuppance? Does Isabelle actually win the concert competition?

I also imagine reading this as an adult is quite a different experience to reading it as a child; it was obvious to me right from the start that Mrs Murakami had lost her family to the Hiroshima explosion (although exactly how Mr Vas fitted in to the picture was a little beyond my ken!) Still, that didn't ruin it for me - there was still plenty to enjoy in Josh's slowly developing appreciation for the 'losers', and his gentle friendship with Arundel.

I haven't mentioned Josh's little brother, but he's also an important player in the story and he's utterly delightful. He's very much a little kid without coming across as either twee or monstrous, which so often seems to happen in books. Josh's parents are wonderful too - very loving but very human; Meehan portray's Josh's mother's frustration over his brother's refusal to learn to read very well, without demonising her at all.

So, should I read it or what?
I definitely loved it! It is a children's book, so I flipped through it pretty quickly, but it was enjoyable nonetheless. Recommended!

Next up: Um, I've just read another Agatha Christie, and I think I'll also do a companion post for this one on Hannah's Winter since it would be kind of interesting to compare them! Also, probably this week: A Friday Babble, topic yet unknown!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I read this as a child, albeit perhaps a little older than the target audience (I was maybe 13) and was enchanted by it, to the point that it's stuck in my head all these years. I'm not sure how I'd handle the revelations about Hiroshima, but the writing was sublime.

Thanks for the review. Off to grab a copy of this and hopefully savour it as much as I did nine years ago.