The Book of Story Beginnings by Kristin Kladstrup
Well, here it is. The reason that the book reviews have come to an almost complete stop around here. I have been slogging through this book. This is another one that falls into the category of Nifty-premise-boring-book. Here’s the basic setup: In turn-of-the-century Iowa, a young boy finds a book called, you guessed it, The Book of Story Beginnings. There’s a convenient poem on the title page of the book warning him to be very careful about starting a story. He does anyway. It involves a sea suddenly surrounding the farmhouse of a boy not unlike himself. He closes the book and looks out the window, only to discover that it has come true. There is a vast ocean now surrounding his home and a little rowboat tied up at the edge. He rows away and is never seen again. Flash forward to a vague present. A girl, a distant relative no less, and her family are moving to the Iowa farmhouse. Will adventures ensue? Supposedly.
Now who hasn’t dreamt of that? Putting pen to paper and then looking up to realise that what you’re writing is actually happening. In fact, every time anyone writes anything, isn’t that what they’re secretly hoping will happen? I know that’s what happens when I write.
But somehow Kladstrup manages to take the most magical part of writing and make it…well…boring. And somehow inane. I couldn’t really tell you what’s inane about it, but that’s really the first word (after boring) that popped into my head just now to describe it. And it’s not that it’s bad. It’s really not. It’s just not great. It’s mediocre. Like a lot of books out there. Like I hope my book is not, but there’s really no way of knowing. Maybe that’s why I didn’t like this book. Because she took the best part of writing, and reading for that matter – don’t you sometimes look up after you have that moment of realising that you haven’t been listening to anything but the words on the page and expect to see Huck Finn or Harry Potter or whoever staring back at you, waiting for you to continue? – and made it seem commonplace.
I really didn’t set out to write what’s fast becoming a rather scathing review because honestly, this book is not bad. But I think I’m going to have to give it a rating that is more negative than it may seem at first.
My rating: C