Saturday, June 07, 2008

Book Review:The Stolen Child

by Keith Donohue

I loved this debut novel about two changeling boys. The title is taken from the Yeats poem which I had never read before but which adds an interesting dimension to the book. The chapters alternate between the story of the changeling that kidnaps Henry Day and takes his place in the human world and Henry Day who becomes one of the hobgoblins (now called Aniday) that live in the woods. I especially liked how the chapters alternated between the two boys’ stories. For example you get Henry Day’s perspective on being kidnaped and then the hobgoblin’s perspective of changing into Henry Day and fitting into his human family. It would have been easy to dislike the changeling who took Henry away from his family but the author did a marvelous job of developing his story as well and indeed by the end, I found him an equally sympathetic character. While I enjoyed learning about the life of the hobgoblins in the woods I thought the author did a wonderful job in showing how similar the two boys were. Both boys were struggling with their past, who they had been and who they were now.

I also enjoyed the author’s writing style. Aniday speaking of his assimilation into the hobgoblin family:

“They showed me the hidden things silence revealed: a pheasant craning its neck to spy on us from a thicket, a crow hopping from branch to branch, a raccoon snoring in its den. Before the daylight completely faded, we tramped through the wet grounds to the mucky bank of the river. Along the water’s edge ice crystals grew, and listening closely, we heard the crack of freezing. A single duck paddled further down the river, and each snowflake hissed as it hit the water’s surface. The sunlight faded like a whisper and vanished.” p 32 Trade Paper edition.

And I was happily surprised by the many scenes with Aniday and Speck sneaking into a secret basement chamber of the library to spend hours reading. Although many of the hobgoblins had forgotten their ability to read and write Aniday not only held onto and reveled in these human traits but also attempted to keep a diary of his own history. I found this an interesting aspect of the story.

All in all it was one of the best books I have read in a while and I would heartily recommend it to anyone. Indeed, I am thinking of suggesting it for my book club to read.

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