Author: Marcus Sedgwick
Genre: YA (I think?) multiple genres. I don’t even know.
Length: 336 pages
Published by: Hachette
Source: received for review
Four linked stories boldly chronicle madness, obsession, and creation through the ages. Beginning with the cave-drawings of a young girl on the brink of creating the earliest form of writing, Sedgwick traverses history, plunging into the seventeenth century witch hunts and a 1920s insane asylum where a mad poet’s obsession with spirals seems to be about to unhinge the world of the doctor trying to save him. Sedgwick moves beyond the boundaries of historical fiction and into the future in the book’s final section, set upon a spaceship voyaging to settle another world for the first time.
This book went way over my head.
But I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s actually a work of genius that I can’t comprehend.
Okay, so basically, we have four stories.
First we have cave girl.
Cave girl discovers writing, which is pretty cool.
Then we have witch girl.
Poor thing. She doesn’t get the most happy ending, I’ll just say that.
After that there’s crazy guy.
Except it’s not NARRATED by crazy guy, but by someone who works at the asylum. This one was possibly my favourite, and also really sad. I almost cried.
Last we have spaceship guy.
Completely incomprehensible. Although I did like the stuff about space.
They’re all in different styles, time periods, voices. The first one (cave girl) is in a kind of free verse, which I really liked. So that was different.
There’s a lot of stuff about spirals.
Don’t look at the gif too long. It’s mesmerising. Hypnotising.
So I kiiiind of got the point of the spirals. It linked in with how humans all through the ages are similar, because of our obsessions with creation, with discovering. It’s how spirals are everywhere, from the distant past to the distant future. But I feel like that’s quite a surface understanding, and I didn’t really get the higher meaning of that.
Let’s go back to the insane asylum one.
So like I’ve said, it was my favourite, and it almost made me cry. It makes you think about madness, and what it really is, and who the mad people really are. How humans always have to have a group of people that we condemn, because we don’t understand them (like in the second story, with the witches). It shows the strengths and the horror of humanity.
And that’s why I love this book.
But at the same time…I didn’t love it while I was reading it. It’s kind of a retrospective appreciation for the scope, thought and breadth of this novel, which is astounding.
Read this book if you want to be awed.
Like, I quite enjoyed the last story, with all the stuff about phi (the golden ratio) and black holes, and space travel. I love space. Space is awesome. So the ideas behind this book were amazing, but I wish the stories themselves had been more entertaining.
I also really don’t think this is YA, though that’s what it’s been marketed as. Strange.