Saturday, 8 August 2009

The Stolen Child

The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue is one of those books that was blogged about quite a lot a couple of years ago. I read quite a few reviews, some loved it, some didn't, and some were halfway inbetween. I have a slight fascination with fairies and goblins or... as they're referred to in this book... hobgoblins. So I bought the book and, as often happens with me, it sat on the bookshelf, sad and neglected and crushed to death by the other 300 odd books on Mount Toobieread. Anyway, to cut a long story long it was, at last, time to read it - not for a challenge or anything like that, it was simply 'time'.

Henry Day is seven the day he runs away from home and hides in the woods. The incident is the perfect opportunity for the hobgoblin group, who have been watching him for some time with a view to creating a changeling, to kidnap him. He is snatched and a hobgoblin takes Henry's place and life in the world of humans. The real Henry becomes 'Aniday' and after initiation wakes up confused and disorientated. He is now a changeling, with a new life and new companions. He will take his place in the goblin heirarchy and, eventually, it will be his turn to 'change', but this could take a hundred years or more. As the years pass Aniday makes friends as well as enemies, but all the while he can't help wondering who he really is; sometimes he remembers parents, sisters, a past life, but it's all very hazy. Meanwhile the replacement Henry is living Henry's life. His position in his new family is shaky. He discovers a talent for music and his mother adores him for this; his father doesn't and senses something's not right, distancing himself from the fledgling genius his son has become. And all the while the new Henry, while distancing himself from the hobgoblin group he has left, is also uneasy about where his musical talent has come from. He sets out to discover who he was in his previous life, before he became a changeling in the 1800s. What he discovers is a shock and will bring him back into contact with the one whose life he stole.

I think I might have been expecting a bit more of a fairytale than this story actually is. More of a fantasy story perhaps but this book is not actually that kind of thing. Yes, there is a hobgoblin group who are weird and wonderful but this is no Lord of the Rings kind of tale. It's much more of a human story about fitting in and being 'normal', whatever that is. Human relationships play a big part, how we and our parents deal with raw talent, is it always a good thing? And it's also about growing up and falling in love and how that's affected by an obsession, because both Henry and Aniday are obsessed, in their different ways, with finding themselves.

I liked this book an awful lot. Each successive chapter is told, first from 'Henry's' pov, and then Aniday's, and for me this worked well. It was almost like a series of short stories that charted scenes from both their lives. I cared very much what happened to both and found their respective journeys fascinating; Aniday's compulsion to write down his life history for instance, or Henry's need to go to Germany to further his own investigations. The story itself is beautifully written, gorgeous descriptions of the forests of - I think - Pennsylvania and the way in which progress and urbanisation affects the land. This book will stay with me for a while and might even make it onto my favourite books of the year list.

13 comments:

DesLily said...

oh yeah been a while .. this was what I call "interesting".. like you said, about fitting in and how anyone is preceived... as for goblins raising humans I liked the book you sent me better!!

Kailana said...

I really liked this book! I read it a while ago now, though. I have his new book but haven't had a chance to read it yet. I wouldn't mind rereading this one at some point...

Booklogged said...

I remember seeing reviews for this one. It sounds interesting.

Cath said...

Hi Pat. Interesting it definitely was but not in the way I expected. Hard to compare it with the Hollow Kingdom books as they're so different. But yes, if I vote with my heart those win hands down, *probably* because I love the romantic aspect of Clare B. Dunkle's books... and Marak of course.

Kailana: I had no idea KD had a new book out! I'll go and look in a moment.

Booklogged: It's the kind of book that makes you think a lot about various issues. Plus the setting is so very beautiful. It's a worthwhile book, imo.

Jeane said...

I read this one months and months ago but it still sticks with me. I loved it- for all the reasons you name. The author did such a great job at creating atmosphere and that feeling of confusion and need- the boys each seeking to find out how they belonged.

Danielle said...

You know I remember seeing this book around when it was first published, but I don't think I ever really paid any attention to what it was really about. It sounds intriguing and now I am going to go look for a copy myself!

DesLily said...

Only twice has someone who "should not" be the one that appeals to me happened. One was Bartimaeus and the other Marak

Cath said...

Jeane: yes, I agree completely and can see this one staying with me for a while too.

Danielle: this one is not your average fantasy book, it's a lot more than that and I think it might interest you. One to get from the library maybe?

Pat: that's an interesting thought and it would make a really good meme - which literary characters have you been attracted to that you shouldn't have? Except that the list would be very short! Other than Marak I can't think of any. Which is silly because there must be others. 'Snape'... he would be another one.

BooksPlease said...

This book is new to me. It sounds as though I would like it.

I do the same thing - buy a book and leave it for ages before reading it and then its time comes. Other books I read straight away - I need to work out why, but I suspect it's just how my mind works!

Nymeth said...

This has been on my list for far too long. Thank you for reminding me of it, and for making me want to bump it up. It sounds like a really beautiful book.

Cath said...

Margaret: The Stolen Child is not purely a fantasy book, there's so much more to it so yes, I think you might like it.

I do exactly the same thing and nor can I work out why. There are some books that I *had* to have right away but still haven't read a year or two later. Makes no sense.

Nymeth: yes, it was thought provoking and interesting and also quite beautiful in places. I'd love to hear what you think when you get to it.

Susan said...

I have this on my Mount Tooberead! I love that name! lol I had to skip over your review part so I wouldn't find out too much about it. It does sound really interesting, and I am hoping to get to this, this year sometime.

Cath said...

Susan: I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. It took me a while to get around to it but sometimes you appreciate a book more if you've waited to read it.