Inkheart – Cornelia Funke

This was one where I saw the movie first, not even realizing there was a book. And not only a book but a series (I take it the film didn’t make enough money for the sequels to be made?) I remember enjoying the film, though I remembered little enough of it going into the book. (I didn’t even remember Andy Serkis as Capricorn – how could that happen?) It’s a fascinating idea, the ability to read a character out of a book – which becomes terrifying with the addendum that for every character who comes out someone or something goes in. That, we find out, is what happened when her father, Mo, read aloud from Inkheart one evening to his wife and baby daughter, Meggie; suddenly a character from the book appeared, and Meggie’s mother was gone, and no one was happy about the switch. Mo, it turns out, was responsible for it, accidentally; this sort of thing happens when he reads aloud. Meggie and Mo have been on the run for most of her life, and only now is she learning why: He is hunted by the other characters who came through to this world by his reading before he stopped ever reading out loud – evil characters, wanting him to read henchmen and riches into their keeping.

So, a fascinating idea; I just wish it was a little more fleshed out. What, exactly, happens to a book when a character, particularly a major character, is read out of it? Nothing? Or everything? Dustfinger was the first person Mo read out of Inkheart, along with his odd little horned ferret Gwin, and he’s quite a major character; how would someone picking up one of the (very rare) copies of the book find the story proceeding? Even more important to the internal Inkheart is the terrible villain Capricorn; I imagine his disappearance would be celebrated in his own land, but it would make for something of a dearth of plot in the book. And, for heaven’s sake, Tinkerbell is brought out of Peter Pan, and The Steadfast Tin Soldier out of his story – again, big plot holes. So – what would Peter Pan look like, after? Would it be just as it was, or would the story heal itself around the hole left by Tink, or would the rest of the pages be filled with “Has anyone seen -?”

On the other side of it, how do the “real” people, like Meggie’s mother Teresa, manage in the books? Does it depend on how well realized the fictional world was? Would someone accidentally read into, say, The Cat in the Hat find himself Seussized, and see a two-dimensional caricature looking back from a mirror? Would his senses adapt to his new setting, and would it all appear normal to him, or would it be all very bizarre and cartoonish? What about the parts the author didn’t write about? Does a world end where the writing does, or is it assumed that there is more beyond the page, as though what some writers feel they do is so: they are merely transcribing the history of someplace else? (And where do I sign up to be read into Rivendell?)

I admire the fact that the book is filled with books. Meggie and Mo – and Aunt Elinor – love books the way I do, which, oddly, is not something I see often in fiction. I find it a little surprising that there aren’t more book-saturated books. Done well, they’re so much fun.

It’s a dark story, violent to more than just books, and has a surprising cruel streak. Elinor in particular surprised me; I didn’t expect a warm and maternal character, but she’s so off-handed and cold about everything but her precious books, and so downright unpleasant at times, that I wanted to smack her. (Not a great quality in one of the good guys.) I did, however, like Meggie and Mo, together and separately, and Dustfinger is a fine, unpredictable (even to himself) fellow. Capricorn was a bit over-the-top evil, but … well, see Jessica Rabbit, quotes thereof. I wanted to love this book … I probably would have when I was much younger. But reading it now I was too busy questioning the ethics and logic, the whys and wherefores and the ways and means all throughout to really enjoy it.

Stupid adulthood.



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