Where can one start in trying to write about the latest novel ‘Little Hands Clapping’ from Dan Rhodes? The reason I start this with that question is because you are reading away and then somewhere around page 60 something slightly dark and disturbing is mentioned in such an off hand and subtle way you almost have to re-read the paragraph one or two times to actually believe what you have just read. It’s something that isn’t hinted at in the blurb and so I am going to try and write about the book without mentioning it as giving it away would not ruin the read but maybe spoil the book a bit.
The book starts in the strange setting of a bizarre German Museum where an unnamed ‘old man’ works and lives. He isn’t quite security guard and isn’t quite curate, he is quite curious. The fact in the opening chapter we meet him as he wakes in the night from sleep, hears there is someone downstairs ignores it and eats a spider instead before he calmly goes back to sleep leaves you filled with intrigue (well it did me) by page 8. Bring in his acquaintance with Ernst Frohlicher, the doctor everyone loves and admires and you set the seeds for a very interesting and unexpectedly dark tale about a truly shocking crime the become embroiled in.
Dan Rhodes has again, quite like in novel Timoleon Vieta Come Home, spun in a story set in Portugal where in a small town three children are born and all the local old town folk know that two of them are destined to be together forever and one will be born to love one but eternally be rejected and consumed with this unrequited love. It’s a story that you wouldn’t think would have anything to do with the old man and the museum and yet Rhodes magically spins one lovers fairytale into one twisted darker tale, its done very subtly and very cleverly and I was hooked from the opening page until the last which I raced to towards the end as there is a rather gripping denouement within the final pages.
I do really enjoy Rhodes writing as I have probably mentioned several times before. I like the mixture of the dark bleakness and the light humorous tones that he uses. This book has me laughing out loud at several points and what sometimes makes the laughter all the better (and harder) is that you’re often laughing at things you know you shouldn’t. I love all of his characters even if I am not meant to like them and in this book even the smallest characters get a full back story. An example would be the woman who gets the old man to meet his current boss. A girl who grows up beautiful and laughing that even when she gets hit buy a car the street hear her laughing as she flies off the bonnet and even when she is lying broken on the road giggling that ‘at least she’s not dead’. Its like little adult fairytales mixed in with two bigger tales that come together, I think its wonderful.
I don’t really need to add that I thought this book was great do I? I am sure that you have picked this up from the above and in my previous reviews of his books. What pleases me too is that I still have lots of his books to go and so I haven’t read his latest and now have the wait for a few years until the next one comes out. So if you haven’t read any Rhodes do give him a whirl, I think the best way to explain him is that he is like a modern singular Grimm brother writing fairytales and fables for adults. Which how can anyone fail to be charmed by? If you would like to know more about him, do pop by the blog tomorrow…