Rating: A big, fat 5 stars out of 5
Victoria McQueen has a secret gift for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photograph, answers to unanswerable questions. On her Raleigh Tuff Burner bike, she makes her way to a rickety covered bridge that, within moments, takes her wherever she needs to go, whether it’s across Massachusetts or across the country.
So the writing is brilliant and…different, somehow. The chapters sometimes run together, for example, so that the last sentence of one chapter ends with the title of the next. I felt like it should have been annoying but all it did was make the damn book even harder to put down. The story is pretty surreal in a lot of ways but also manages to feel completely real. I very much doubt that there are bikes that transport their owners across not-real-but-sort-of-real bridges and I am eternally grateful that magic Rolls Royce’s aren’t rolling around enabling all sorts of despicable crimes but I didn’t feel like I was reading something that was completely fantastical. Because there are people like Charlie Manx (albeit without the supernatural transportation) and there are people whose lives are destroyed by them. There are people that see the world differently and struggle every day. Hill’s characters are full of contradictions and flaws and are completely believable and are what really tipped this book over from great to all out amazing for me.
It felt like everybody was reading this in the run up to Christmas last year and in some ways I can see why. It’s the perfect antithesis to all of the good cheer, if that’s what you’re looking for. It takes the Christmas songs, the decorations and the chocolate treats and distorts them. But mostly, I think that Hanna was absolutely right – I can imagine that there’s something…wrong about reading about the torment Christmas songs cause Vic while singing along to Rocking Around the Christmas Tree. Sure, it’ll make the experience of reading NOS4R2 that bit more disturbing but it might also take the shine off the tinsel for you. What I’m saying is, there’s no wrong time to read this book. If you’ve been hanging on to a copy so that you can read in horror while children lose their souls to a sick version of your favourite holiday season, go nuts. If you don’t manage or want to squeeze it in before the end of the year, read it whenever you can. Just make sure that you do read it.