read_warbler (read_warbler) wrote,

Tunnels and Mister Pip

Two short reviews this time, in order to catch up properly before I go away on holiday on Saturday. (We're off to Cornwall for a much needed break.) First up, it's another creepy read for my Halloween challenge, Tunnels by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams.

Fourteen year old Will Burrows lives in London with his family. They're a strange lot - his father digs underground tunnels for a hobby, his mother never shifts from in front of the TV and his twelve year old sister is rather emotionless but is the one that keeps the household running. Will is a tunnel digger too and introduces his one friend, Chester, to his underground world. But there are some odd looking people wandering about and possibly following them. Why? When Will's father suddenly goes missing Will discovers that he was digging a tunnel he hadn't told his son about and it descends from their cellar. Chester is coerced into accompanying him on the adventure into the subterranean depths to find Will's father. What they find there will change everything Will has ever known about himself, his family, and even the history of the human race.

This pacey, imaginative story for young adults really pandered to my love of books that go underground. (The Hollow Kingdom series by Clare B. Dunkle did likewise.) I found it gripping and really quite scary in a 'what if?' sort of way. The race of beings that Will and Chester go up against are not pleasant in any way, shape, or form and full marks to the authors of this book for creating a universe that is both believable and at the same time not remotely cosy. In short, I loved this book and would especially recommend it for teenage boys or anyone like me with a love of underground stories. The sequel, Deeper, is already available and I'll be searching that out as soon as I can.


Next up it's Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones, a book that won the 2007 Commonwealth Writer's Prize and was also shortlisted for the 2007 Man Booker prize.

Matilda is a young girl living with her mother in a small village on a tropical island. Her father left the island some years ago, to work elsewhere, he sends money home occasionally but basically he is out of their lives at the moment. A civil war is looming on their island involving a big company and the young men of the island. Suddenly the war starts and the island is cut off from the rest of the world. Life becomes a question of survival for the village. Mr. Watts, the only white person on the island, takes on the task of teaching the children using a copy of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. The book rapidly becomes one of the most important things in Matilda's life, even though the place and time it was set is a million miles from her experience. Unfortunately, the book also plays its part in later misunderstandings with soldiers from both sides of the war, with completely unforeseen results.

It's hard to describe my feelings about this book because they're mixed. To say I *enjoyed* it would be wrong. I did enjoy a lot of it, the teaching with the book, the bits about the islanders lives etc. But some - much smaller - parts of the story are quite brutal, to be honest, and rather hard to take. I'm glad I read it, I like to read stuff like this from time to time to give myself a good dose of the reality of some people's existences. And the quality of the writing makes the book worth reading too. It also reminded me that I would like to read Great Expectations again sometime soon - I last read it in my teens and am almost positive I would get a lot more out of it now I'm older.


There! I'm up to date with reviews at last. I'm halfway through The Various Haunts of Men by Susan Hill, which is fantastic, but I'm pretty certain I won't manage to finish it before Saturday, so that review will be for when I get home the week after next.
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