Do you like stories within stories? Were you, perhaps, captivated by Inkheart or the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde? Do you like books that are about storytelling and all its power? Then you, like me, might want to pick up this book.
I nabbed it from NetGalley mostly because of its cover, and also because it talked about stories in the blurb. Not knowing anything about it, I wasn’t expecting anything, but it turned out to be a fascinating and well-written book. It didn’t take me long to read, but it had plenty of substance, including some beautiful quotes.
In Tell The Story To Its End, a boy called Oli finds a creature in the attic of a family home in the countryside. Its name, or so he believes, is Eren, and it lives on stories. It grows stronger the more of them he tells. The book itself is structured as a story Oli is telling Eren; at the start of each chapter is a dialogue between them.
But as the book goes on, these dialogues take a more sinister turn, and go from ideas about storytelling to the suggestion that something is very wrong.
I liked this book primarily for its observations about the meaning of stories. Why they exist and how they came to be; the power they have over us.
‘We tell stories,’ he says, ‘because we know no other ways to fly.’
As a writer, but primarily as a reader, books about stories always have a place close to my heart, especially when they acknowledge how important stories can be to us.
‘Yarns and tales and the telling, they’re all about unravelling the truths that life hides, you ken? It’s about finding out, if a princess is locked in a tower, how would you get her down? It’s about you, and the story, and where the two things meet.’
The book isn’t all about the meaning of stories, though. Oli has family issues to deal with, which create the conflict in his own stories. He also makes friends, and through them we’re introduced to the joys of secret doors cut in fences between gardens, wandering in the woods, and generally living a childlike life, full of wonder.
The main thing I loved was how beautiful a lot of the writing was. A book about storytelling couldn’t really be anything other than gorgeously written.
Vines grew over libraries and turned the stone to chalky dust, and the books flew off into the night as crows.
There are plenty of more lighthearted moments, even some humour. I don’t know many twelve-year-old boys; I’ve never been one, and it’s been too long for me to really remember when my older brother was one, either. So I can’t say how realistic Oli is, but he seemed realistic enough, if less annoying than most of the kids I’ve met. 😉
This is definitely a book for those who love books. Eren’s obsession and need for stories made me feel weirdly respected. Does that make sense? I was like, “Yeah, I have books! I tell stories! In his world, I am important!” Okay, maybe that doesn’t make sense. But perhaps you know what I mean.
A book keeper! Gods of the word, they are. Finest of the brave. You know, it’s them that keep books that know things, in the end.
I think the plot relating to Oli’s father could have been more developed, but at the same time, his focus wasn’t on that — he’s more concerned about Eren and stories and what all of that means. It did feel like a lot of the real-world stuff was thrown in, sometimes.
But the gorgeous lines make up for it. Can I just share ALL OF THEM? Is that allowed? Here, have a couple more.
‘I have seen worlds grow and die, until their ashes don’t even float on the wind of the highest mountains. I’ve loved the legends of men whose names are lost, loved people who aren’t even memories. The trees you climb now will be the coal that heats the rooms in a thousand years that house the babies that grow to found the empires that will crumble to dust while I sit and watch. I’ve seen libraries burn, my boy. I’ve seen books crackle and split and crack to black earth and shadows. I’ve waited and slept and ignored more history than you and your islanders will ever know happened.’
Okay. That was a long one. To sum up: this is a beautifully written book that will probably appeal most to booklovers and writers and the like (but then, it’s mostly booknerds who read books anyway, that’s how it works). While some aspects of the plot could have used more development, I was too distracted by pretty quotes and truths about storytelling to mind.
Therefore I’m giving it four stars, and recommending it to anyone who was intrigued by these lines, as there are plenty more where they came from.
Here’s one last quote to leave you with:
I glory in the history of legends and nightmares, boy. I ride the dust of words spoken throughout all that ever was.
Tell The Story To Its End is due to be published on October 20th, 2015, and the above review (including its quotes) refers to an e-ARC received from NetGalley in August 2015. Etc.