Things That Make Me Go Hmmm…

h1 January 28th, 2009 by jules

I finally just finished my library copy of Sonya Hartnett’s The Ghost’s Child, originally published in Australia in 2007, I believe, and published last year in the U.S. by Candlewick. Remember when Sonya stopped by in ’07 and said quite determinedly that she doesn’t like her books to be pinned down when it comes to labels (such as “YA”)? Well, she’s done it again (I see here in The Guardian that Linda Newbery wrote last year in her review, “{e}mphatically, The Ghost’s Child has the quirkiness and the sense of being true to itself that often marks out fiction not written with any particular readership in mind”). This time she’s crafted a contemporary fable of sorts—an ethereal, lilting, poetic one at that—about the very nature (and very complicated nature) of human love. Or it could be a modern-day fairy tale? I dunno; I’m still thinking about it. And there I go, trying to categorize, too. Anyway, I wasn’t so sure about this book at first, though I’m a huge Hartnett fan, but I have to say it suddenly endeared itself to me, invited itself right in and took a seat in my mind, refusing to catch a cab and head home. It made itself some coffee and settled in to stay.

And, you may remember, I burnt my-own-self out pretty hard-core on reviewing novels here at 7-Imp, so much so that I don’t want to talk further about what I thought of it. I’m simply here to share a short excerpt from it that I loved, that made me want to get on this cyber-rooftop and yawp about it. I’ll adorn this post with the book’s three different covers (U.S., UK, and Australia), and I thank Becky for that information. I could tell you who is talking to whom here, but it isn’t vital to appreciate the excerpt. Suffice to say that our protagonist is finally getting to ask a question she’s longed to ask of someone — and after embarking on a long journey just to ask it. (She’s already discovered her own answer to her other burning question, posed by her father: What is the world’s most beautiful thing? Damn, I love that.)


Hastily, before he vanished, she said, “I need to ask you a question, Feather. It’s a question bigger than the world. By the time I guessed you knew the answer, you were already gone. But I need the answer so badly that I crossed the horizon to find you.”

“And I’m here,” said Feather. “So ask.”

Maddy drew a breath, rehearsed the words in her head, and asked, “How can you know love, and lose it, and go on living without it, and not feel the loss forever?”

“You can’t,” Feather answered. “You feel the loss forever. But you put it in a safe corner of yourself, and bit by bit some of your sorrow changes into joy. And that’s how you go on living.”

Maddy saw it in her mind, a great coin flipping slowly, showing first the whiplash tail of sadness, next the warm facet of joy. Sorrow and joy, bonded so closely that occasionally they spun inside each other. “And you take pride in knowing you’re capable of great love,” she said, “and live in the knowledge that you can feel it again.”

“. . . Yes,” said Feather. “You can feel it again.”

So, I’m done now. I hope you enjoyed that moment as much as I did. It made me put the book down and go, aaaahhhhh. And hmmm.

P.S. Why oh why wasn’t this Australian cover used in the U.S. edition, too? (Really, are there rules about these sorts of things?) I think it’s just lovely and so befitting the book’s atmosphere. I also wish I knew who the artist is behind it.

14 comments to “Things That Make Me Go Hmmm…”

  1. Loss seems to be a recurrent theme in my reading as of late, and this excerpt just gets it. Beautiful.

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. I agree—that Australian cover is fabulous.

  3. What a fabulous way to “not” review a book … almost Alice-in-Wonderland-like. I had just finished reading the Bookends’ post about the tragic loss of two librarians before I stopped by, and now your extract seems exceptionally timely.

  4. Oh, wow, Jules–thanks for sharing this. I put the book on hold as soon as I finished reading that excerpt. That is the big question, isn’t it? And the hard truthful answer. I love books that tell the truth.

  5. Thanks, you all. Adrienne, I love books that even *ask* The Big Questions, as Sara calls it.

  6. Wow. I’m going to read this. That selection of the book got me, and I’m wondering why I am so weepy as of late. I think I’ve picked up from my daughter– ever since the Snow Maiden story, something has broken open inside my head.

  7. “Hmm…” would probably suffice as a response to the news that you and Eisha, collectively, are a Superior Scribbler. I mean, it’s not like you don’t already have enough to do, and enough awards for doing it. 🙂

  8. Oh! That is achingly beautiful…
    A image that rings so true to life.
    Thank you!

  9. I’ll find out who the cover artist is and let you know.

    Judith in Sydney

  10. Ooh, thanks, Judith!

  11. Ok here’s another one for my library request list. I’m so glad I have extra time to read these days!

  12. The UK edition is a lot nicer than it looks here. It’s got illustrations inside as well. The US cover is awful! And yes, it’s a beautiful and strange book..

  13. Quilt Patterns

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and ideas-inspirational! Sarah Jane.

  14. […] 7 Impossible Things before Breakfast:I chose to read this article because I liked the cover art for the book. Seems like an interesting book. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. […]

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