Sunday, April 5, 2009
Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
Yes, I was desperate for some reading material and raided my 11 year old's shelf. I read the English translation of Ms. Funke's fantasy. The language flowed pretty well, so I think the translation must have been pretty well done. Some English translations are awkward or a little jarring, showing that a good translator is so necessary when it comes to communicating the original idea of an author.
A man and his daughter travel from place to place, following his work as a book binder/restorer. Their love of books borders on the extreme, but for some reason, the father never reads aloud from those books to his daughter. He'll tell her stories he made up himself, but he'll never actually read one.
One night a strange man shows up on the doorstep, and though usually the father and daughter have a trusting relationship, the father sends her to bed before showing in the stranger and speaking to him quietly behind closed doors. Eavesdropping, the daughter wonders at the strange name the new man calls her father, and the tantalizing hints at a menace searching for her father and a book he has in his possession.
The next morning, the father packs up a book wrapped in brown paper, loads his daughter and some few possessions in their camper trailer, and with the stranger in tow, they flee to avoid the man called Capricorn.
It turns out that the father, Mo, has an extraordinary ability to draw the characters and objects from the story in a book by reading aloud. That ability has pulled some villains out of an old story who are relentless in their pursuit of Mo in an effort to read them back in to their story...or not. It reminds me of a Grimm fairy tale: a lot of woe, and nothing goes right for the protagonists, and they aren't even that likable.
I was easily drawn into this story, but it seemed like the plot lurched in fits and starts. The story tied up nicely enough with plenty of potential for further sequels, but I am hesitant to continue. The characters are human enough. The good guys seem to be "too human". They have serious weaknesses and they don't seem to grow much throughout the story. Maybe the author anticipated making a series and will develop the characters further in the next two books, but I'm not sure I want to expend the effort to finish the series. Inkspell is the next book, followed by Inkdeath.
Inkheart was recently released as a movie starring Brendan Fraser as Mo. I may see it on DVD. Maybe I'll want to finish the series after reading that.