Monday, 7 August 2017

City of Circles - Jess Richards

Let’s cut to the chase. Give this book an award now. Forget about shortlists and other delaying tactics, just hand over the award.

It’s as if Lewis Carroll and Franz Kafka have taken you by the hand and led you into a Max Escher picture of Gormenghast and The Magic Faraway Tree with refreshments by Timothy Leary. Such language, such imagination, such imagery. This book had me in its thrall right from the start. And I fear I may lack objectivity. In truth I do not know if this book is good or bad. But I do know that the Book Cupid shot an arrow into my heart with it. And this book requires an open mind and an open heart.

On one level it’s simply a story, whimsical, quirky; how about running away from the circus instead of to it? A story of love, loss, grief. A story of searching. A story of Danu, the tightrope walker. Populated with characters of intensity, it’s a richly layered tale. Magical realism is the genre if you require a genre. And you can enjoy it just on that level.

But on another level the prose just blew me away. The words are like jewels, precious stones. I wanted to say them aloud and let the phrases roll off my tongue forever. It’s a long time since I have been so overwhelmed by the consistent beauty of language in one book.

And within that language are truths and wisdoms that I just wanted to read and re read. There’s so much that should not be glossed over as ‘just’ the narrative in a fiction. There are words and notions here to be pondered and considered. There’s paradox after paradox, yin and yang sublime. The name of the city in the story, Matryoshka, gives something away, named after the nestling dolls, one inside another.

Reading is subjective, I’ve already vaguely alluded to that. In your life as a reader there are maybe a handful of books that really grab hold of you. I thought I was too old for it to happen again!! But it has. I will read and re read this book. I will gift a copy to as many people as I can. I will name it as one of my favourite books, not just this year but of all time. And I am humbled, for this book deserves better words than I can give it.

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