Thursday, September 30, 2010

"Inkheart" Kept Me Driving

Inkheart, by Cornelia Funke, tells the story of a man, Mo, who has an unusual talent. When he reads books, sometimes objects or characters materialize in our world, and in their place something or someone from our world disappears into the world of the story. The problem is, he has no control over what comes out and what goes in. Nine years ago, he read out three men, two quite evil, and his own wife disappeared. Now, the bad guys are catching up with Mo and his daughter Meggie, and Meggie, 12, doesn’t know the truth about her mother or about her father’s talent.

The setting is confusing at first. It sound Old World for a bit, especially in the names of some of the characters, like Silvertongue (what Mo is sometimes called), Capricorn, Dustfinger, and Basta, not to mention the presence of fictional characters, like fairies and a horned martin. But then there are references to the modern world, like cars and cell phones. The setting only begins to make sense as you learn about Mo’s gift and the tragedy that occurred almost a decade previous.

The characters are colorful and interesting. The story is imaginative and suspenseful, and there are plenty of twists and turns.

A couple of quibbles: First, I was amazed at how often Mo doesn’t tell his daughter the truth or doesn’t keep his promises to her/others. It appears he is motivated by love for Meggie, but 1) his deceptions aren't always for Meggie's sake, and 2) one looks for a bit more honesty/faithfulness in a “good guy.” Second, the solution that the “good guys” develop and count on isn’t realistic by the rules of the Inkheart’s world itself. But these two items detract little from the story.

Is Inkheart good? I only listen to books on tape (Yes, “tape”) in my van. Inkheart, 10 cassette tapes long, tempted me to take longer routes to my destinations. It successfully tempted me to drive to work rather than walk the mile each way.

First line: Rain fell that night, a fine, whispering rain.

Last line: As Mo had said: writing stories is a kind of magic, too.

Book Publication: ©2003 in German. Translated into English by Anthea Bell. 534 pages.

My rating (on a 5-point scale): 4

The movie, starring Brendan Fraser as Mo, doesn’t do the book justice (though I think Fraser does a good job). The story is collapsed significantly; thus the tension doesn’t have time to build. Further, the characters are not nearly as colorful. Basta seems more foolish than evil. The book’s Capricorn leaves you shuddering; the movie’s Capricorn does not.

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