Light Boxes – Shane Jones

I was alerted today’s book of choice thanks to Frances of Nonsuch Book a while back. I then promptly forgot about it until a few weeks ago a little parcel from Penguin arrived and there inside was a compact novel. By compact I mean it’s about half the size of an average paperback both in depth and height. I then whizzed back to Frances post to see what had made me want to read it so much initially

In an unnamed town, where you soon learn things are not what they seem, February has taken over and flight has been banned. For over 300 days the town has been in perpetual winter, children are going missing or killing owls and villagers who rebel are being found in the woods dead their broken jaws filled with snow (one of the images that haunts me still), leaving the people of the town with no other option than to start a war with February. Our would be hero of the hour and in many ways catalystfor all that follows, is  a balloonist Thaddeus. After his daughter goes missing one night leaving only a bed filled with snow and teeth swears to get revenge and finish February once and for all, though he is tricked along the way, whatever shape it may take. It is also the voice of Thaddeus that despite the varing narratives the story is told fromguides you from start to finish.

In some ways it’s a thriller, you want to know who, why and what February actually is with many twists along the way.  In some ways it has elements of science fiction. In the main with its ghosts, secret underground worlds, moss that can eat anything slowly from the feet up, and endless impossible possibilities it’s an adult fairytale (I don’t think I would let young children read it) where anything can and often does happen though it tends to be the things you least expect. In others ways it’s a fable, and a tale of hope.

The film rights for this book have already been sold and, for once, it’s actually a book I am looking forward to seeing on the big screen because it’s written so visually. I found that, though I might be the only one, the book with its short chapters was in some ways like a series of wonderful slightly abstract watercolours that left imprints on your mind for some time after you had read each snap shot. It is of course all down to Jones wonderful writing that this is the case I did also wonder if the fact it is also written in first, second and third person adds to it.

You can’t help thinking that whoever designed this book added to the magic of it all. After all it has six different fonts in several sizes and is written with a sentence on one page, maybe a list on another, maybe just a paragraph or a full three page chapter (for that’s as long as they get), though this could be the authors doing of course. Either way it’s a magical book that’s very visual without being illustrated which for a debut novel I find quite incredible.

I could sum up Shane Jones debut novel ‘Light Boxes’ in one sentence. An adult fairytale filled with surreal magical feel that pulls the reader into another reality. Really it’s just a marvellous escapist read that’s darkly beautiful and will leave you thinking of it for days. 9/10 (Oh and its out later in the week here in the UK, I think elsewhere it’s already published.)

I can’t think of any suggestions to go with this one because I honestly haven’t read anything quite like it before. Has anyone else given it a whirl? What are your thoughts on the ‘magical realism’ genre?



Filed under Books of 2010, Hamish Hamilton, Penguin Books, Review, Shane Jones

25 responses to “Light Boxes – Shane Jones

  1. Wow – it’s rare for books to depart from the regular format so this sounds hugely interesting aside from the content – it sounds almost as if the format is as important to the book as the writing.

    • I wouldnt say its as important as the writing because the writing is seriously in a class of its own. I think it being so different in look and feel is quite important both to the book as an object and for the reading experience of it.

  2. Ooooh this sounds right up my alley! Thanks for the review. *Goes and looks book up on Book Depository*

  3. Annabel (gaskella)

    Sounds rather wonderful. I like that.

  4. Ooo, envying you that copy! Thanks for the link love too. This just sounds so intriguing. Can’t wait to read it.

    Not so sure about the film possibilities anymore. I follow the tweets of Shne Jones and remember something about any mention of the book or film being pulled from the film maker’s website. That would be a real bummer given what you have said here.

    • Its a very special read Frances so I do hope that you get the chance to give it a whirl.

      Oh dear, I do hope the film hasnt been cancelled, it says its still on the go on the press release, but then I have learnt to not always believe every one of those I read.

  5. This is the oddest thing–I saw this post last night, read it, mulled over your question. This afternoon, I was oh-so-innocently ransacking the bookstore after work [hee], and I found this tiny little book. First of all, this was quite a surprise, since it usually takes a long time for new releases to reach our shores. Second, this book costs a lot here, for a wee thing. But, but, but, I am so tempted. I took a peek and it pained me to walk away from it. You are bad for my TBR, seriously.

    Re the magical realism question: I had a crazy phase years ago when I devoured what I could of the ‘genre’–Isabel Allende, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, some Filipino authors, even Alice Hoffman, who weaves in enchantment in mundane suburbia. Now, though, I don’t know–I’ve been reading a lot of realism lately.

    For a book that seems like it’s on the same vein as this one, off the top of my head is Kelly Link–her collection, Magic for Beginners has, well, magic and oddness and plain ol’ weirdness told so matter-of-factly there’s not even a question of suspending disbelief. You just do, you’re just there in her stories.

    • Oh so innocently ransacking the book store… hmmmmm!!!!!

      I think its been out in America for a while and a few other countries too, England gets some books really late. Sorry about the expense and how much of a temptation it was.

      I have one of Kelly Link’s collections I am going to have to give that a whirl.

      • I got Sam Savage’s other book too. Ach.

        As for Magic, that’s actually the only Link collection I’ve read, and though I haven’t read it all the way through, what I read, I really liked.

        / eepbuyingthisbooktomorrow

      • I have Pretty Monsters by Link which I shall be reading soonish! I culdn’t remember the title but horah now I can.

  6. I love magical realism, and this one’s been on my to-read list a while! Glad to be reminded of it.

  7. Pingback: Shane Jones, Light Boxes (2009) « Follow the Thread

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  10. I just finished this one last night and am really not sure what I make of it. I think I’m going to have to digest it for a few days before I attempt to write about it! It’s definitely unique.

  11. JohaN

    Thanks for this review!
    I’ve fallen in love with this little book so hard – it’s so beautiful and sad.
    If you’re looking for something similar, it’s the closest anything has come to another of my alltime favourites – Richard Brautigan’s “In Watermelon Sugar” (and I think it is a direct influence, because RB is one of the authors mentioned in the book) – if you;re looking for something similar, give that a whirl! 🙂
    Thanks again!

  12. Pingback: Review: Light Boxes by Shane Jones : Bart's Bookshelf

  13. Amiel Sac

    “An adult fairytale filled with surreal magical feel that pulls the reader into another reality.”

    You used these words to describe Light Boxes. Why is that? Are there obscene scenes in this book? Were they in detail?

    I am particularly interested in this because describing of the sexual act is really an interesting thing that for me every writer must master.

    Shisha Guy

  14. Pingback: Light Boxes by Shane Jones « Explore the Written

  15. Pingback: Flavored Shisha

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