Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Stolen Child - Keith Donohue [July/06]

I received this book from my boyfriend, or boyfriend at the time, however I choose to look at the current situation. Anyways, he liked the cover and held it up to me. Heather, whose blog is here, also had the book in her recently finished section. I know one should not judge a book by its cover, but doesn't the cover attract your attention? It did for me.

From the flap:

Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world's more full
of weeping that you
can understand.

Inspired by the W.B. Yeats poem that tempts a child from home to the waters and the wild, THE STOLEN CHILD is a modern fairy tale narrated by the child Henry Day and his double.

On a summer night, Henry Day runs away from home and hides in a hollow tree. There he is taken by the changelings - an unaging tribe of wild children who live in darkness and in secret. They spirit him away, name him Aniday, and make him one of their own. Stuck forever as a child, Aniday grows in spirit, struggling to remember the life and family he left behind. He also seeks to understand and fit into this shadow land, as modern life encroaches upon both myth and nature.

In his place, the changelings leave a double, a boy who steals Henry's life in the world. This new Henry Day must adjust to a modern culture while hiding his true identity from the Day family. But he can't hide his extraordinary talent for the piano (a skill that true Henry never displayed), and his dazzling performances prompt his father to suspect that the son he has raised is an impostor. As he ages, the new Henry Day becomes haunted by vague but persistent memories of life in another time and place, of a German piano teacher and his prodigy. Of a time when he, too, had been a stolen child. Both Henry and Aniday obsessively search for who they once were before they changed places in the world.

THE STOLEN CHILD is a classic tale of leaving childhood and the search for identity. With just the right mix of fantasy and realism, Keith Donohue has created a bedtime story for adults and a literary fable of remarkable depth and strange delights.

If people have not noticed, I have a thing for fairy tale type novels. This qualifies as one for me. Unlike the ones I have read in the last little while, this one was a totally unknown retelling for me. I had never read the poem before, but there are always childhood stories about creatures that steal children. Donohue just takes these stories and makes them his own. There is so much going on in this book, that I feel like I should sit down and read it again just to digest everything I might have missed the first time around. Heather, at a High and Hidden Place, mentioned the same thing. There is a lot of symbolism going on. It is the sort of thing that there is so much going on that it takes a few times to get everything straight.

Considering how blahish my reading habits have been for July, I was excited that I managed to finish this book. I had only picked it up in July, and managed to have it done by the end of the month. It is very very rare that I will encourage a purchase of a hardcover book for myself. I will buy them second hand, but to cough up the price for a brand new one is pretty impressive. The thing is that, I loved this book. It was very interesting to picture what life was like as a hobgoblin. They steal the children and one of their own takes on the childs life, and then the child is forced to live as a hobgoblin until it is his turn to make the change. The novel covers the original child and the hobgoblin that took that child's place. It a novel of coming to terms with what has happened in the course of their life.

And can we cry out in awe over the cover? It is a very artistic cover, one that catches the eye and makes you pick it up to see what the book is all about. The bookstore here doesn't seem to carrying as many hardcover books as they once did, so I was happy that this book was there. First to contemplate buying and then to buy. Book buying is an addiction, but when you get transported into such fascinating worlds, you can't help but want to buy more. This book was in the fiction section here, but it can easily be seen as a fantasy novel. It just takes place in the modern world with fantastic elements. It is a very compelling read for everyone, though. It takes the fears of childhood and makes a compelling story out of them. I strongly recommend this book to children of all ages.



  1. I'm glad you enjoyed it. You're right, it really does need a reread. There's just so much going on with the symbolism but it's so readable it's hard to put down for analyzation.

    And ITA, that cover is amazing. It really invites you to open up the book and get lost in it.

  2. I will read it one of these days again.


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