I really wanted to enjoy this book, I really did. However, I feel I was guided by the child in me rather than skimming through a few pages first to see if we would get along. The title and cover are enticing – filled with mystery and intrigue, depicting a story element not often seem in contemporary children’s fiction.
On the surface, it should be a book that I instantly make friends with; mythical mermaids, historical context, book wormy children and Venice. I adore Venice. In itself it is this mythical place filled with dark corners and strange happenings. Rich in history and beauty and romance in all it various forms. I should like this book. But, I just don’t.
I had similar issues when I tried to read Cornelia Funke’s The Theif Lord. Again, intriguing plot line and vaguely interesting characters set in this magical city. But with both books, I never saw the half way point. This is quite an unusual thing for me. When it comes to reading adult fiction, I will persevere through my difficulties and usually get to the end. With a children’s book, I don’t allow for the same ‘effort’ – it’s a children’s book, if it is not instantly engaging then I feel there is something amiss.
As I say, it is a rare occasion that I fail to complete a book, but for both The Undrowned Child and The Thief Lord I know what part of the issue is: the magic is lost. Venice is such a tremendously rich place for the creative mind and in some respects can overwhelm you with ideas. But this mysterious essence just fails to translate onto paper, there becomes an over labouring of the author’s knowledge of the place; too many references to too many places entirely irrelevant to plot. Michelle Lovric, I feel, was particularly guilty of this.
Don’t get me wrong, I am quite sure the story is an interesting one and I would be certainly intrigued to see what other works come from her pen, but The Undrowned Child just didn’t do it for me – there was simply too much detail. Lovric clearly knows her stuff, her knowledge of Venice and it’s history is incredible and for me this was the most important part. The story of Teo just got in the way. Likewise, the rich historical detail got in the way of Teo’s tale. Had I been confronted with one or the other I would have been a very happy reader, but together it made for something of a dead weight, making me feel drowned myself.
Some people will love this book, I know it. Caroline gave this book four stars in her Goodreads review even though she came across many of the same issues as I did. But Caroline, to all intents and purposes, is an adult and also has a lot more patience than I. Would a child in the 9-12 bracket be able to get through this whole book? I am not sure, but then again, maybe they wouldn’t pay attention to all the erroneous information. I do feel quite sorry for Michelle Lovric because I think she has a pleasant idea, but I am not sure many will see its end.
So, to relieve a brain which seems to be currently leaking everywhere, I am reading something rather light hearted, The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.