I adored this book. It’s very thick, but a quick read once you get the hang of it. It tells two stories, one through vivid black and white illustrations and one through words. The catch, however, is that you have no clue how the two are related. There are hints of one in the other, but the way they actually connect is a mystery until almost the end of the novel.
The first part shows the story of a family of actors, beginning in 1766, in illustrations. The second part, in prose, begins in 1990 and follows a young boy abandoned by his parents at boarding school, who runs away to his uncle he’s never met in London rather than stay in his surroundings. It’s a story of personal discovery, of family secrets, and of love and hope (which you probably know I’m a sucker for).
The characters are interesting, though even I admit the story in prose doesn’t always make sense. I feel there was more potential there than was used. However, I felt a little like Joseph the whole time I was reading it, and that’s not altogether a bad thing. I really was curious how it would all tie in together, and I was not expecting the end to be what it was. I think that’s where my love for the story comes in. When it all clicked, it made it work more somehow, even if it was a tiny bit odd, and it brought in a lot more of the time period it was set in, and a lot more diversity than I anticipated from this novel.
The first part of the book (400 pages are so) are the illustrated portion of the story. I savored the illustrations as I tried to glean every bit of information I could from them. While I wasn’t quite sure what I was meant to be remembering for later, the illustrations were beautiful. I love how Selznick can tell a story through words as easily as through pictures. I also, for a long while of the prose part, found the illustrated story to be the more intriguing of the two.
I recommend this book for fans of Hugo Cabret, also by Selznick. Also, if you want a book that is long, but 400+ pages are illustrations, then this is the book for you. You’re in for an interesting ride, albeit a bit frustrating at times.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars