My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This was a wonderful, unique, almost indescribable book. It certainly doesn’t fit into any genre that I can think of, and this review will most likely be confusing to anyone who hasn’t read the book. So, my most pressing suggestion would be: if you are at all curious about this, just go ahead and read it. Really, do.
Now, on to the details: the book takes place alternating between The World, and the Kingdom of Cello. Cello is a place where Colours are organisms that are sentient- some are good, and some quite, quite bad. In Cello lives a boy, Elliot Baranski. His father disappeared a year ago, leaving him and his mother to wonder whether a vicious Purple was responsible, and whether his father is in fact, dead.
In The World, more specifically in Cambridge, England, lives a girl: Madeleine Tully. She and her mother ran away from their luxurious life (and Madeleine’s father) and are now trying to make ends meet in a teeny attic flat. There is mould on the ceiling, and the only thing they brought with them was Madeleine’s mother’s sewing machine. To make matters worse, Madeleine thinks her mother may be going crazy, as she seems to be acting less and less normally.
Somehow, a crack exists between The World and Cello. And Madeleine and Elliot begin exchanging letters from one world to the other. Madeleine isn’t even sure she believes that Cello is real: she figures Elliot Baranski is a character that some sad, nerdy, would-be fantasy writer had made up to give himself an excuse to leave his boring existence.
But the two of them have knowledge that can help one another. And through their correspondence it becomes clearer to the reader that each of them has a lot they can learn from the other.
So that’s my plot summary, without giving away any real spoilers.
What can I say about the book itself? I enjoyed it so much that I read it in a day. And I’d re-read it in a flash. Though I borrowed this from the library, it’s a book I would love to own a copy of. One of the greatest things about it is how unique, unusual, and enchanting I found it. The world of Cello is so strange, yet so believable. And the best part is, the author does not talk dryly at the reader, explaining every little detail about Cello and the way things work. Everything just sort of happens, and while it seems awkward to understand and sometimes a bit confusing, while reading you just pick up on how things work, in a subtle way.
The characters are really poignant. They made me feel that I really knew them all in real life. I would have enjoyed homeschooling with Madeleine, Jack, and Belle.
There are some pretty funny parts- the ones that made me laugh were the editor’s comments in each of the news features written by the Princess Sisters. There was a nice bit of sarcasm there that I appreciated.
There are also some quite sad parts, mostly at the end when Madeleine is thinking about her parents.
I think the book had a good mix of moods. And it simply makes you believe in magic, in enchantment. Which I absolutely love in a book.
And can I add- all the colour theory stuff was just amazing. I love colour – both the scientific light-based colour, and paint. And I’m in complete agreement with this conundrum: how can we ever know that someone else sees colours the same way as we do? Sure, we agree that grass is ‘green’- but what if the way I see ‘green’ is the same as the way you see ‘purple’ – or something quite different altogether??? Ah, the mysteries of perception.
If you don’t enjoy character-driven stories, I’d give this one a pass. I’ve read some reviews where people are upset that there wasn’t ‘more of a plot’. I think that is largely a personal thing, as the plot was just right for me. If you do enjoy quirky characters, and an entirely new world with unusual rules, this is exactly the book for you.
PS- the font for the title on the cover, and for the chapter headings, is amazing. I am in love with it.