A literary fantasy set in New Zealand which features elements of Dickens as well as a very solid University and family relationships, this is a unique, complex and immensely entertaining book. When Charles, or Charley, Sutherland starts to experience a new aspect of his troublesome gift, it is not only his brother Robert who gets dragged into a situation with seemingly very few boundaries. As literary characters emerge from the books which surround Charley, challenges emerge that are new to everyone. Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield produces Uriah Heep as a character with agendas that seem outside Charley’s control, and it is when he and Robert are confronted by actual threats that they feel it is vital to explore further. While Charley’s secret has always seemed to be a unique problem, it seems that someone else is getting involved. As the story is narrated in turn by Robert and a view of Lydia, the surprising Millie and of course Charley, there is much to discover in this sneakily funny, charming, challenging tale of stories, characters and adventures as literature turns out to be anything but boring. I was so pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this wonderful book.
Robert knows that his younger brother Charles is remarkable, a secret he shares only with his parents. When the phone rings in the early hours, Robert makes an excuse to his partner Lydia and chases over the English department building of the University in Wellington.The unfortunate and bad character of Uriah Heep has appeared, “read out” of David Copperfield by Charles, a result of his tendency to make fictional characters appear to be real and semi – independent people in the contemporary world. So far Charles has usually been able to control and shape the characters by how he has interpreted them, but now they seem to be independent and offering real threats to him, Robert and the real world in which they can move.
I really enjoyed the insights into the shared childhood of Robert and the younger but precocious Charles, as he pulled fictional characters into the family home. It transpires that Sherlock Holmes was a regular visitor for tea, which is fortunate as one of the creatures from Conan Doyle’s tales appears seemingly out of Charles’ control. A strange and complex discovery involves a meeting with yet more literary characters who are well described with nods to their origins in books that will be familiar to many, as Mr Darcys clash with the fearsome Heathcliff, and others cause fun and games in a secret locality. When they encounter the mysteriously familiar and resourceful Millie , Robert and Charles also realise that a malevolent force is at work in their environment, and they form an interesting team to attempt to control which they can only just begin to understand. As they have have adventures on the edge of reality, a unique gift seems to mean challenges for many.
I found this a funny, mind stretching and very entertaining book which has an incredible number of layers. While it contains literary criticism terms that I remember from degree level studies, there is much to be enjoyed and twists and surprises that are much more obvious. I really enjoyed its combination of fantasy, jeopardy and reality, and of course the really clever insights into literary characters. A brilliant book in many ways, I thoroughly recommend this foray into literary fantasy with many remembered and memorable characters.