have lit the first of seven candles
to write my story by..."
Coriander Hobie is living quite
the charmed life in Cromwellian London.
She has loving parents and an
adoring housemaid and friends. Her riverside
home is festooned with rare
and precious trinkets and artefacts, and her
head is full of tales and magic
that keeps her family apart from the uproar
and disorder that is spreading through
society. Coriander is not a
spoilt girl. Just lucky. Very,
very lucky. Because these rare things can
be taken away just as quickly as
they are given. Because fate can turn
on the simplest of things, like
a new pair of shoes.
In the space of seven candles,
Coriander tells of how she lost everything
that was dear to her. She tells us
how those shoes were gifted to her,
how the puritanical Maud and Arise
Fell squirmed their way into her life,
and how through black magic and misdeed,
she found herself locked
inside a chest and left for dead.
Which was when she entered another
Coriander" won the Nestle Book Prize for 9-11s 2005 «
This book found its way into
shops rather surreptitiously. There it was
tucked away in the local "Ottaker's"
with no fuss or fanfare. Just a book,
with an understated cover hinting
at its historical content. And on the reverse,
something about some silver
shoes. So what was it, an historical piece,
a Dickensian tale...?
Oh there's history, all right.
Walking talking history that leaps off the pages,
clings to your shoes and rings in
your ears. There's Dickens here too. Great
greedy handfuls of Dicrckensian characters
who'll slap your face and hug
you better in the same paragraph.
And there's magic. Dark and
deadly faery magic. For "I, Coriander" is in
fact a faerytale. But one steeped
in mystery and violence and grief and
despair and love - love that
shines in even the darkest of places. Like the
very best of Dickens or Joan
Aiken, we must squirm as our heroine's world
collapses around her, and the visciously
cruel Arise Fell wields his
puritanical fists. It's a heartbreaking
read. By the end of act three, our
heroine is literally locked
in a casket and sentenced to death.
And then the story reveals the
other side of its mirror. We are transported
to a soft focus faerie land, hitherto
only hinted at, unfolding magically
as we read on. Coriander finds love
and danger in this worlde, as we learn
of the dark force that pursues her:
A witch whose malevolent hand reaches
out of this chocolate box realm and
into the heart of Olde London...
This is a vivid tale, skilfully
told. The author's at her very best in those
opening three acts as she describes Coriander's
fall from grace. This is
painful stuff. Coriander's Mother,
so elegant a creature, is suddenly torn
away from her daughter. Ravens and
hags penetrate the child's rosey
world. And Maud and Arise Fell, characters of
bring their lashing tongues,
fists and fury to bear upon her. We wince
with every blow.
"I, Coriander" is
Sally Gardner's first novel. Previously she has created
a number of successful picture
books. Her biography tells us she
has struggled with dsylexia
through to her adult life and still struggles
with long words even now. But
it hasn't stopped her writing a classic
faery story - one that lingers
long in the memory and thoroughly deserves
that coverted Nestle Prize.
Go on. Take a chance. Let the book slip in
to your hands next time your
in your local book store. Let its dark
magic pull you in...
But beware the raven at your
No special editions here. No
numbered runs, either. Just good
old-fashioned signed copies, which
were quite widely available
when the book was first published...
UK Hardback edition... UK Paperback
The publisher's web site...
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