Friday, July 20, 2007

Road of Bones - spoilerish

I didn't mean to finish reading this last night, but I had only about 50 left to go when I hopped into bed and it was too compelling to stop. I haven't read the other books shortlisted for the Carnegie, but if they were as gripping as this novel, it must have been a difficult choice.

I've enjoyed everything I've read by Anne Fine, but Road of Bones is different - there is humour, but it is a very dark humour, voiced by Yuri, Fine's fascinating protagonist. But the predominant tone is anger: Fine's anger as well as Yuri's understandable increasingly chilling rage at the system that has rendered his family helpless and made his world relentlessly harsh.

It comes as no surprise to discover that Fine read Anne Appelbaum's incredible book Gulag, but there are two other books that Road of Bones reminded me of: Tzvetan Todorov's Facing the Extreme, and the People's Act of Love by James Meek, which was my favourite read for 2006.

Todorov's exploration of the moral and philosophical impact of both the Nazi concentration camps and the Soviet gulag system should be essential reading for all of us. It is the closest I have come to understanding the nature of the evil within humans that allows us - sometimes encourages us - to dehumanise one another. The point Yuri reaches at the end of Road of Bones is one of the most interesting resolutions - if it can be called that, because really it is a starting point - that I have read in any fiction, and especially in children's fiction. I doubt that JK Rowling has had the time to read Fine's novel, but if she had, I wonder if it gave her pause for thought when contemplating the finale for Potter and his friends at Hogwarts. I know, I know, she's known the outcome right from the start, but Fine has created a marvellously ambiguous and provocative ending to Road of Bones which really does deserve examination by all those who want to tie up the loose ends too tight.

As for PAOL - it is the setting and the character of one of the key characters that were evoked by reading Fine. Also moments of description of the great vastness and cold of Siberia.

On a totally different note, I recently wrote a paean about my husband. I don't often do this kind of thing, I find it causes you to pay and pay and pay, but this is a man who volunteered to have a hot pink bedroom and encouraged us to buy what have to be the most expensive curtains known to man. So here is a picture in honour of the hot pinkness.

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