Posts Tagged ‘Adventure’

This novel was a delightful read. Michael Gruber has a talent for vivid and precise language. The novel is an action packed mystery in which the characters stumble upon evidence that appears to point to the existence of an additional, unknown, Shakespeare play. Gruber manages to entwine romance (or at least sexual desire for the female as a mythical object), deception, the mafia, literature, screenwriting, manuscripts, and cryptography.

I read this book while on a camping trip, and the only problem was that I didn’t have enough time to read the novel from cover to cover in one sitting, which is exactly what I wanted to do.

The book isn’t fast paced. We meet the two main characters through first person narrative and because of this we get to learn their deepest feelings that would never be spoken out loud. But this internal experience of the characters leads us on many tangents that not only help to develop the characters, but also develop the plot. Even though it may feel like the novel is tangential, every idea and thought conveyed works to build up to the final moments of the novel.

This was an excellent read. While I couldn’t wait to get to find out what happened, I enjoyed every page in my journey to the end. This is a novel that will remain fresh in my mind for years to come.

Michael Gruber’s website:

Hannah Tinti’s debut novel, The Good Thief, is a marvelous adventure story that has been hailed as Dickensian and embodies a rich sense of mystery and magic. The novel features a young boy who has grown up in an orphanage as a crippled outcast. Ren desperately desires to know who his parents are and how he lost his hand as an infant. When a mysterious man comes to the monastic orphanage claiming to be a long lost brother Ren feels hope for the first time. Unfortunately, he quickly discovers that Benjamin Nab, his ‘brother,’ is a con artist and a magnificently convincing storyteller—he discovers that Benjamin’s fantastic tale of Ren’s conception is false. Despite Ren’s disappointment, he enjoys the scandalous adventures that he and Benjamin embark upon. Ren treads carefully between his rigorous Catholic upbringing and Benjamin’s corrupt code of ethics, and discovers how to become a good thief.

Tinti, who is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of a non-profit literary magazine One Story, found her inspiration for The Good Thief in a oft forgotten word: Resurrection Men. Graveyards had long been a place that held Tinti’s interest, and the idea of men who robbed graves, a hideous endeavor, juxtaposed with their desire to save lives through science brought to life Ren’s fears and dreams and helped him realize his identity. Ren kept his stump of an arm hidden in his shirt, just as his personal identity was hidden from himself. He waited his entire life to discover who his mother was and why she would abandon him, and he believed that until he discovered his history he would not be whole. This tale explores the wholeness of body and mind, and delves into the pain, loneliness, and confusion experienced by all children as they grope for explanations and a greater understanding of the meaning of their own existence.

Tinti skillfully weaves a tale that is wrought with tension through the eyes of a child, and she uses just enough magic and mystique to pique the reader’s interest without stepping into the world of fantasy. These subtle moments are told through Ren’s perspective as realistic, yet the reader is able to intuit the notions as fictitious as in Benjamin’s story of Ren’s birthplace; “The birds that lived in those branches were as large as donkeys and would take away dogs and children to feed their young a mile high in the sky’ (31). These moments spark the imagination inherent in children and so often forgotten by adults, and it transports readers of all ages into a world where anything is possible, both good and bad. The idea of a story inside of a story is also a truly delightful technique, and Tinti wields it with mindful craft.

The Good Thief is fast paced and difficult to put down. The setting is vivid and well conceived from the little wooden door that abandoned infants are passed through at the orphanage, to the graveyard, and to Mrs. Sand’s complex and homey boarding house. Tinti uses suspense and intrigue that leaves the reader wanting more after they’ve finished the novel. The chapters are short, which adds to the fast paced feeling of the story. This story is captivating and entertaining. Every little detail is utilized in more than one aspect of the story, and because they are so skillfully woven into the action, these details never feel like plot devices. Tinti spent six years working on her debut novel, and it is an extraordinary contribution to modern adventure that both young adults and adults will enjoy for years to come. Bravo!

My Latin professor recommended that I read Treasure Island. He said that Stevenson always ended a chapter on a cliffhanger and he also mentioned that the writing exhibited Stevenson’s knowledge of Latin. I’ve chosen to learn Latin because I believe it will be immensely helpful in my writing endeavors, and so I had to check out Treasure Island. And Bert was right. This book was difficult to put down because the conclusion of each chapter was a tease for the next. It turns out that this is because Treasure Island  was originally published as a serialized novel between 1881 and 1882 in the magazine, Young Folks, under the title The Sea Cook. Unfortunately I was in entering the last two weeks of the quarter when I picked this up, so I read it much slower than I would have at any other time. Even so, I would catch myself thinking about the last bit I’d read, wondering what would happen next even if I had set the book down for two or three days. This book really is a treasure.

Many people think of Treasure Island as being a children’s book, but this is simply not true. Jim, Flint, Silver, and the Doctor will intrigue a reader of any age. Their relationships shift and show the depth and importance of empathy, forgiveness, and salvation. And this novel has created many of the pirating caricatures that we still think of today. A one-legged pirate captain and his parrot, buried treasure (a rags to riches motif), and sayings like “shiver me timbers” or “yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.”

There were a couple of bits that I found mildly bothersome. Racism. I really abhor reading comments, even with understanding that Treasure Island was written in a time when the thoughts about race were very different than they are now. Although initially turned off when young Jim assumes that the reason one of the sailors (I believe it was the Cook, AKA Silver) liked to always be sailing was because he was married to a black woman. But I was surprised at the end of a the novel when they were anchored and found the black natives coming to sell food to be a pleasant surprise and a soothing boon to their spirits that were beleaguered with blood and treachery. I also found the fact that Jim told the pirates that he’d moved the ship to be a bad maneuver; the pirates knew the island better than young Jim, and they could have easily deciphered where the ship was and left on it. And the final cowering three pirates left ashore, clearly knew where the ship was, and if they were smart they would have tried to obtain control over it during the days that the treasure was being transported. And further, how does one person located in a single outpost protect them against three desperate pirates with loaded guns, while the haul the treasure several miles. But despite these inconsistencies, the novel was still an absolute pleasure to read. I will most certainly give this to my sister when my nephew gets old enough that she can read it to him.