Author: Isobelle Carmody
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Death, Fantasy, Mental health
Dates read: 1st – 2nd January 2019
Publisher: Ford St
5th sentence, 74th page: She stroked the bundle of rags tenderly, and a strange thought entered Jack’s chilled mind.
One wakeful night in the aftermath of his mother’s death, Jack enters a land devoid of colour or scent. Here he meets the tragic laughing beast and Alice, a strange girl with a secret.
Will Jack escape before the terrifying wolvers find him? Or is he destined to be trapped in the Greylands forever?
Only the cats know…
I really had no idea what to expect from this novel. I know that I love Isobelle Carmody’s writing, but this is the first truly young novel that I have read by her. It is also, weirdly enough, the first standalone story that I have read. And man, I wasn’t disappointed. This was one of those stories that left me thinking, contemplating and wondering long after I turned the final page. This is certainly one of those stories that lingers long after you finish, in the best way possible.
The fragmented nature of this story highlights Jack’s misunderstandings and confusion beautifully well. As do the mystical and dreamy scapes in which he moves – both the real world and the Greylands. The settings are so incredibly vivid and yet vague that you can see the hazy contrast perfectly in your minds eye, and it emphasises the symbolism behind Jack’s confusion and grief.
Even if you don’t fully understand what is happening throughout Jack’s adventure, the beginning, middle and end (literally named this) give a great account as to what the symbolism means. And also the ways in which this reality bisects with our own. Having the character write his own story is a new-to-me ideal, and I loved how well it worked.
Dealing with grief and issues of mental health can always be quite difficult. And there are few literary pieces I’ve found that deal with such topics in an open, accessible way. The fact that this is done in a language that young children can access is all the more impressive and is exactly what helps this story to linger in my mind’s eye so strongly.
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