Category Archives: Shane Jones

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?

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