Sunday, 6 October 2013

Book of the Week: A Place Called Here

"Sometimes that's all people ever really need. Just to know."

Well hello there, my loves. For this week's Book of the Week instalment, I have picked something that I read rather a long time ago, and that actually, I wasn't really expecting to like all that much. It's A Place Called Here by Cecelia Ahern. I bought it on a whim a few years ago as part of a '3 for 2' deal, and it sat on my bookshelf for at least a year before I decided to give it a go. I had heard good things about it, but I was still rather sceptical, as I'd also heard amazing things about Ahern's bestseller, P.S. I Love You, and I wasn't all that blown away by it. I found it to be the most underwhelming novel I had ever read - soppy, kind of dull, and not nearly as moving as everyone else claimed it to be. But I was in the process of deciding which tiny selection of non academic books I should take to university with me one year (reading for pleasure being a huge luxury during term time, I'm sure some of you will be aware), and I just thought, hey, might as well give it a chance! And actually, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it! 

Firstly, the premise of the book is a very clever and interesting one, in which everything that ever gets lost materialises in this place called, you guessed it, 'Here'. It begins when protagonist, Sandy Shortt's childhood bully goes missing, never to be seen again, which leads Sandy to question where she has gone, and where everything else that's disappeared goes for that matter. She obsesses over every sock, every pen lid, every tiny little thing that vanishes mysteriously, much to her parent's exasperation, until she grows up and turns this fixation with all things lost into a career. It is when she hired to investigate the disappearance of Jack Ruttle's brother that she stumbles into the land called 'Here', and realises she has been on to something all along. The place is populated with the subject of every missing persons case she has ever studied, and piled high with hundreds of the mislaid miscellaneous. Now we've all been there. We've put something down and we can't remember where, and frustratingly, it vanishes, never to be seen again. I think it's so intelligent that Ahern has managed to turn this irritating everyday occurrence into a colourful, well imagined and captivating story, with a complex and rich fairytale world to match. The idea alone merits a good review in my eyes. 

I found that the two central characters, Sandy and Jack, added a real element of warmth to the story. They are both really interesting and likeable people in their own right; Sandy, the slightly flaky missing persons investigator whose characteristics could not be less suited to her name, and Jack, the stressed and distant Dubliner who wishes he'd spent more time with the little brother he now can't find.  But the thing that really got me the most was the way that they really looked out for each other, and worried about each other, despite having only ever spoken on the phone. Sounds a bit strange to say, but it gave me a bit more faith in humanity to know that these fictional characters were willing to go out of their way for each other, even though they are, effectively, total strangers. I think there's something quite comforting in that, and it was lovely to read. 

As well as this, there is a really chatty style to the way that Ahern writes, also apparent in P.S. I Love You, which makes you instantly warm to the story and the characters - you feel like you know them and you're just listening to them natter over a good cuppa. This quality was actually the only thing I liked about P.S. I Love You, and it lends itself equally well to this story of mystery, intrigue and discovery. It adds a more friendly layer to what could be a rather chilling story. It could have been a tale of people trapped in some parallel universe, desperate to get back to their real lives, but actually, they've all developed a warm, comforting community of their own and, although there is an element of melancholy to the whole thing, the way in which it is written makes it really quite heart warming. None of the characters are dwelling on how long it's been since they last saw their family, or how worried they might be - they have made themselves a new family, creating a life for themselves out of a terrible situation.

Another thing that I really liked about the book was the ending. Obviously, I won't give it away here but, like the whole novel, I found it to be very bitter-sweet, something which endeared me even more to the entire story. It was the perfect conclusion to a surprisingly great read.

So, if you're looking for a really easy read to break up the monotony of studying, then this book certainly did the trick for me. I loved the mystery and intrigue, the warmth of the characters, and I was more that a little enamoured by the beautiful fantasy backdrop that 'Here' provided. It just goes to show what you can gain if you just give things a chance. So if you've got something lingering on your shelf that you just don't have the motivation to open, don't leave it, because you might just end up loving it.

Have you read this book? Did you love it? Have you read anything by Cecelia Ahern? Let me know!


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