I won’t lie. This story is a bit daunting. It is nearly 800 pages long and over 30 hours of audiobook. Even at 2x speeds, it will take 16 hours. I hope I enjoy it, but even if I don’t, I’m glad I am reading this early in the month before I have time to stress about finishing my TBR.
I am happy to say I loved this story. Tart writes in a way that is engrossing and that strikes deep. I almost cried early on. Although things never quite reach that level of sadness again, this is still a story of grief and pain. Our main character Theo, tells the story of his life after he suffers a severe tragedy at the age of 13. What progresses is a series of continued unfortunate events. All together they shape him into a troubled adult that goes from being the victim to being a part of the problem.
The utter saddness of the early novel turns quickly into pity as it’s hard to deny a level of inevitably to his actions given the hand he’s dealt. I have read some complaints about his likability and on the plot as a whole which I don’t agree with. Everything he did as a child was with the ignorance and emotions of a child. For that reason, I don’t think we can criticize him for that. This is a commentary on the suffering people have to endure and the effect it has on them, children specifically. That also addresses the second complaint.
There is certainly a plot. That is, the story of his life is the plot. We follow him as he grows up and learns the consequences of his (and other people’s) actions. He has to decide what he’s comfortable with and how to live with them. I understand this isn’t the most exciting premise for a book, but it works because of how well Tart has crafted the narrative and characters. The characters are what propel the story forward, and the detail with which she presents the world, while lengthy, is just as compelling as the characters.
It was so easy to get lost in this story, that I hardly cared how long it is. For most of the novel, all I wanted was to dig deeper into Theo’s life. In the final stretch, I did begin to lose steam, but overly I think it is effective. The ending did a good job closing the narrative. It spoke to some of the overarching themes, specially the idea of fate and how much control Theo actually had in the choices that lead to who he is at the end of the novel. The next paragraph will discuss the ending and include mild spoilers.
I think the last complaint I have was the ending. While poignant, it was a little too happy. While I don’t blame Theo, I think he still ought to have suffered more consequences. That isn’t to say he deserved it, but that is the logical conclusion for a story about the unfairness of the world. It would have really struck a nerve.
All in all, I loved this book. It was beautifully and compellingly written. Stephen King praised it, so I suppose it makes sense I would love her writing. Although, I think my biggest take away from this book is a desire to read more Dickens. I’ve only read a Christmas Carol, which I love, and Tart has been described time and time again as Dickensesk. It makes me think he may be just my cup of tea. As for this book, I’m going with 4.5/5 stars, rounding down. Although, I may bump it up later after some thought.