Monday 22 July 2013

Far Far Away by Tom McNeal

What follows is the strange and fateful tale of a boy, a girl, and a ghost. The boy possessed uncommon qualities, the girl was winsome and daring, and the ancient ghost…well, let it only be said that his intentions were good.
Published by Random House Books in June 2013
Pages - 369
It says quite a lot about Jeremy Johnson Johnson that the strangest thing about him isn't even the fact his mother and father both had the same last name. Jeremy once admitted he's able to hear voices, and the townspeople of Never Better have treated him like an outsider since. After his mother left, his father became a recluse, and it's been up to Jeremy to support the family. But it hasn't been up to Jeremy alone. The truth is, Jeremy can hear voices. Or, specifically, one voice: the voice of the ghost of Jacob Grimm, one half of the infamous writing duo, The Brothers Grimm. Jacob watches over Jeremy, protecting him from an unknown dark evil whispered about in the space between this world and the next. But when the provocative local girl Ginger Boultinghouse takes an interest in Jeremy (and his unique abilities), a grim chain of events is put into motion. And as anyone familiar with the Grimm Brothers know, not all fairy tales have happy endings. . .
This book was brought to my attention after references to it’s similarity to The Book Thief. Now I’ve never read The Book Thief as it’s one of those books that intimidates me, so I refused to let this new release make me feel the same way.
Right from the start you find yourself listening closely to the omnipresent voice of the ghost that haunts Jacob, although I don’t actually think you could calling it haunting, more nurturing than anything. The ghost is quite a studious and moralistic soul and claims to be the voice of Jacob Grimm, one of the famous Brothers Grimm, which really adds a fantasy overlay to what seems to be a contemporary story.  Fairy tales and the lives of the Brothers Grimm, play a really  important part in this story and you need to keep that at the forefront of your thoughts as you read it – otherwise you might be completely shocked by the final quarter of the book. A huge event occurs in the last part of the book which I completely missed  and I am kicking myself for not seeing it sooner.  Ingenious plotting!
The characters evoke empathy in you as soon as you meet them. From Jacob right through to the Sten, the baker, I sympathised with them all and only wanted to see happiness brighten their lives. They had all suffered in one way or another. Ginger was probably my favourite. After appearing a little cocky and perhaps a bit of a trouble maker, you soon realise there is a lot of love in her heart.
The setting was extremely charming. It felt very contemporary and yet their was an invisible layer of magic that floated over the top of it. You couldn’t see it or feel it, but you knew deep down it was there.
At the heart of the book there is a gentle and innocent love story that blossoms out of friendship and fear. After their experiences, nothing will ever break the bond between Jacob and Ginger from that point on.
This is a beautifully written tale and one that will stay with me long after finishing it. I can honestly say I haven’t read anything else like it. The author has managed to take elements of fairy tales and weave them intricately into a contemporary novel.   I would say it is  unique and original and definitely a book I will return to again and again. 

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