Inkheart – Cornelia Funke, translated by Anthea Bell
Meggie’s father Mo is an old-fashioned bookbinder–so naturally, he and Meggie both love books with a passion. When a mysterious man named Dustfinger shows up in their yard one rainy night claiming to be an old friend of her father’s, Meggie starts calling into question things she thought she knew. Where did her runaway mother really go? Who is this Capricorn that Mo and Dustfinger whisper about when they think she’s not listening? And why hasn’t Mo ever read aloud to her? The first book in the a trilogy, Inkheart is a fantasy adventure across worlds, and Mo and Meggie must find a way to set things right.
I’m not sure how to even begin this letter, except to say that I wish I’d found the time to read Inkheart sooner, but conversely I’m glad I wound up waiting long enough that I could read the whole trilogy straight through and not have to wait with bated breath for the next installment. At any rate, there’s no rhyme or reason to my decisions to review a series all together or one at a time, so this time I’m giving each book its own letter.
It’s probably clear from my past reading choices that I’m a lover of fantasy, and never daunted by big thick novels–they often pay off. Inkheart certainly did. I fell in love with Dustfinger the moment he appeared, and fell in love with Mo not long after, and found Meggie and Elinor to both be extremely delightful examples of wonderful bookish women (or girls, I suppose, in Meggie’s case). Your luminous prose and timeless sort of setting, a life filled with books and without the distractions of cell phones and internet, felt like coming home. The rules of that world, where magic can happen, family ties are forged strong and one girl’s bravery can win the day, are just the sort of rules I’ve always lived by in my head whether or not they work out in real life. I was taken in by this book and comfortably led along until, breathless, I had to pause and collect myself before reaching for the sequel.
I’ve brought your book up with friends and colleagues, and found that reactions varied–some hadn’t read it, some found the pacing to be prohibitive (I can see where that complaint comes from, but wasn’t fazed by it myself). One good friend who hadn’t read it yet picked up a copy after I told her she must, and is loving it as much as I–which I predicted, because we have a shared belief in magic and particular love for melancholy men who dance with fire. I’ve come to the conclusion that maybe Inkheart is the sort of book that either is your cup of tea or isn’t, and it’s definitely my big giant cup of tea. I love it enough to wish I could read it in German, though the translation feels to me as though it captures the subtly different storytelling style of another country’s literature. In fact, I wish I knew more about German literature at all, so that I could make some sort of comparison, but sadly I don’t. At any rate, it’s about time I wrapped this up, because I seem to be rambling. You see what your glorious book has done to me? I’m drifting around in my thoughts like a boat bobbing in a pleasantly churning sea. Hey, I rhymed. Five emphatic stars for you.