Review: Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi

furthermore

Furthermore is a fantasy–adventure, the story of twelve-year-old Alice Alexis Queensmeadow who has been born milk white from top to toe (but for a touch of colour to her eyes) in a land where colour defines you and represents your magic, Ferenwood. Her mother doesn’t seem to bother much about her and her father who loved her has disappeared three years ago, after he set out on his travels. Now that Alice is old enough, and ready to participate in the surrender, an annual ritual where the children surrender/demonstrate their talents and are given tasks accordingly, she is ready for adventure. But, things aren’t quite as simple as that, and it turns out that an adventure is already in store for Alice, as she must set out for the dangerous and magical land of Furthermore where her father has gone missing to find him, something she wants to do from the bottom of her heart. But in navigating these dangers, issues of trust, friendship, betrayal, belief and illusion must also be faced.

 

I absolutely loved this one. For starters, this book is so so imaginative and not only that, the author has put that imagination on paper so perfectly, with beautiful descriptions of the strange and fantastic worlds that our characters live in and travel to—the colour, the flowers and trees, the whole environment, really. From an imagination point of view this book very much made me think of Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree series and her lands on top of the tree, though here the lands are far darker, but that said, these lands are very much Mafi’s own—nothing like Blyton’s. Then this book was also so Alice (the wonderland Alice I mean). There is a direct reference of course as Alice Queensmeadow too gets “curiouser and curiouser” but other than that there so many Alice-y lines which I loved. As usual I never marked them out when I was reading but here are a few:

 

‘We might be gone very long’.

 

‘As long as a caterpillar?’, she asked, one eyebrow arched as she inched the sky. ‘Or as long as an Ocean?’ She threw her arms wide.

 

and

‘Let’s go left’, Alice said, deciding. She got to her feet. ‘Everyone is always going right, and if so many people are going right, it’s bound to be wrong I think’.

and this

‘Why do I need a ruler?’

‘Because’, he said. ‘Despite many inconsistencies, following rules is very important in Furthermore.’

 

Such good fun. I also felt a touch of the Little Prince, with the foxes Alice encounters though these have a special touch of their own which I loved. But really, these comparisons aside, Furthermore is very much its own story and a very enjoyable one. The plot is interesting, and while nothing extraordinary in a sense, is one which I really liked very much and with the gorgeous descriptions to carry it along, I loved every bit of it. Alice herself at first I found a little petulant, but before long I did like her and Oliver too, despite his flaws (in this both are very real people), one takes to. The little art work that there is, is also lovely—I wish there was more and in colour. This was an excellent read for me. Loved every bit of it!

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Review: Following Ophelia

Following OpheliaFollowing Ophelia by Sophia Bennett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book for review via NetGalley.
I picked this one because the description was on the same lines as another book I read last year―Wings over Delft (which was of course in a whole different time period and setting, and really a completely different story as well). This one tells of sixteen-year-old Mary Adams who arrives in London to work as a scullery maid, a job she isn’t really cut out for, but which is the only option available to her as she has lost her previous situation. But along the way, she catches the eye of a group of young pre-Raphaelite painters, many of whom wish to paint her. When one of them convinces her to be his model, Mary begins a double life of sorts, maid by-day, and artist’s model whenever she is needed. Her ‘second’ life takes her into society, parties, meetings with famous artists, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Millais among them, and she is soon the talk of the town. Soon enough she begins dreaming of a better life, and the path to achieving it seems open before her. But when trouble creeps into her life in more than one form, she must take some difficult decisions which might take life in a completely different direction.

I found this book to be a fast-paced, engrossing read, pretty much from the start. Mary was a likeable character, coming across as a believable sixteen-year-old, and one finds oneself rooting for her throughout. The other characters too develop realistically rather than as ‘storybook’ ones―people one likes may not always turn out as one expects them to (although that doesn’t necessarily make them ‘bad’ people, just people), and friendship and help at times comes from completely unexpected quarters. And that indeed is what can be said about the plot and the story as well. I enjoyed the world of art that the book takes us into―although it doesn’t go into it in depth (I couldn’t help comparing it on this count with Wings over Delft); while it creates the atmosphere of the world of art/artists, it remains a light read. What adds to the atmosphere the book creates, and lends it more authenticity, is the combination of both fictional and historical figures (the artists, their muses) in the story which was another element I really enjoyed about it. While I do like reading books on art etc. (the Great Artists Series, especially since it gives one a good introduction to different artists and their works, styles, etc.), the pre-Raphaelite movement was not one I was familiar with, and reading this led me to look into it, and the paintings mentioned in the book. But it is not only art, poetry and poets, and Greek mythology are also elements around which the story is woven. But at the centre of it all is Mary’s story of course, which I found interesting throughout, and it would be fun to see what the next leg of her adventures leads her into (we already know where!).

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