VINTAGE BOOK REVIEW: A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty


The Blurb (from Goodreads):

This is a tale of missing persons. Madeleine and her mother have run away from their former life, under mysterious circumstances, and settled in a rainy corner of Cambridge (in our world).

Elliot, on the other hand, is in search of his father, who disappeared on the night his uncle was found dead. The talk in the town of Bonfire (in the Kingdom of Cello) is that Elliot's dad may have killed his brother and run away with the Physics teacher. But Elliot refuses to believe it. And he is determined to find both his dad and the truth.

As Madeleine and Elliot move closer to unraveling their mysteries, they begin to exchange messages across worlds -- through an accidental gap that hasn't appeared in centuries. But even greater mysteries are unfolding on both sides of the gap: dangerous weather phenomena called "color storms;" a strange fascination with Isaac Newton; the myth of the "Butterfly Child," whose appearance could end the droughts of Cello; and some unexpected kisses...

My Thoughts:

I often tweet about a book while I’m reading it.

My tweets about ‘A Corner of White’ include ‘extraordinary, beautiful, startling’; ‘one of the most original and unusual books I’ve read in a long time’; and ‘I’m in awe’.

It is certainly unlike any other book I’ve ever read.

A Corner of White’ is basically a story about parallel words – our own familiar world - and another far different and yet strangely familiar place, the Kingdom of Cello.

A crack opens up between these two worlds, and a letter slips through. Madeleine, a teenage girl living in Cambridge, finds the letter and writes back … thinking her correspondent is just a boy with a vivid imagination. She does not realise that Elliot’s letters describe a real place …

Both Madeleine and Elliot are suffering loss and confusion and the pangs of first love.

Both Madeleine and Elliott feel very alone.

Their letters build a bridge between them and their world, and, in strange and unexpected ways, help each other make sense of the mysteries of their lives.

Jaclyn Moriarty has always had a quirky, wryly humorous style, but in ‘A Corner of White’ she reaches new heights of lyricism. There were some lines which sung with such truth and beauty that I wanted to learn them by heart.

Here’s just one:

'She felt the stars were folding into her chest; those sharp, shining, agitated pieces of excitement were stars'.

Such a perfect sentence, saying so much with so little.

I do have to say that ‘A Corner of White’ is a difficult book to categorise.

Although the secondary world makes it a fantasy novel, the book is without most of the trappings that we usually associate with fantasy. There are no quests, or magical beasts, or battles between good and evil. The secondary world is remarkably humdrum – despite waves of colours that sweep over the land and cause havoc with people’s emotions, and despite such extraordinary magical touches as the Butterfly Child, who brings luck to anyone who catches her.

Similarly, our own world is infused with strangeness and magic. There are troubling absences, inexplicable coincidences, and odd disruptions to what we would consider normal.

Because the book is truly concerned with the inner lives of its two protagonists, I’d call it ‘magic realism’ rather than fantasy – yet it is so fantastical, so filled with a sense of the strange and the impossible, that it really blurs the boundaries of magic realism as well.

I think Jaclyn may have invented a whole new genre. Fantastical magic realism, perhaps?

Or maybe magic unrealism?

Either way, ‘A Corner of White’ is quite simply one of the most astonishingly original books I’ve ever read. I loved it!

Leave me a comment and let me know what you think....

Kate Forsyth
Written by

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