Rating: **** (4 out of 5)
Background: Disclaimer: This book is only available in Portuguese.
After spending two hours browsing at my city’s book fair (Feira do Livro do Porto) I was frustrated because I really wanted to buy a book by a Portuguese author, and I wanted it to be fantasy. But not only were there very few Portuguese fantasy authors there, the books I found for sale didn’t appeal to me at all. So I browsed the works of other authors, and this one caught my eye because the cover is beautiful and the title is intriguing.
Review: This book tells the story of Elias Bonfim, a twelve year-old boy who discovers that his father, Vivaldo Bonfim, who had died before he was born, hadn’t passed away from a stroke, has he had been told all his life, but had in fact disappeared inside a book. And thus starts the little boy’s passion for books, with a quest to find his lost father.
The book is a very fast read, and I wasn’t a great fan of the writing style (in my opinion, a bit too repetitive, and at times trying too hard to create crazy imagery through words) but the story really pulls you in, specially if you’re already a book fan and you’ve read the books mentioned in the story (which I have). This isn’t a plot-driven book as much as it is about the process of discovery, and I appreciated that. My favorite character was Bombo, maybe because there were a lot of things about him that reminded me of myself as a kid.
The ending really affected me, though I understand the logic inside the story. Ultimately, this is a book about stories, what they mean to people, what it feels like to get lost in books, growing up, dealing with what we do and what we become, and how our memories are so intertwined with the stories we make for ourselves. It’s a bittersweet book, and a good one at that.
(Ok, now as an aside… Reading “Crime and Punishment” when you’re twelve years-old? Really? I think at that age I was reading Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. Ah well.)
What’s Next: I definitely want to read more books by contemporary Portuguese authors, and this book made me feel confident that I will find good ones.
Still need to finish Scott McCloud’s wonderful book, but it’s been a busy week…