I struggle with even finding books I want to read. Often I go into bookshops and come out empty handed. I read blurbs, I read opening pages, the book doesn’t grab me. Often I end up re-reading books, or going back to older literature. So much modern writing affects me like a diet of junk food, leaving me feeling a tad sad and malnourished. Which is why it is so very important to talk about the good stuff, the books that don’t merely pass the time, but enrich it.
Matlock the Hare is illustrated and looks like a children’s book, but requires more advanced readers – over ten at a guess. There’s a great deal of plot and a lavishly constructed reality with a lot of new things to get your reading head around. There’s also a language, which you learn as you read. It is one of the most imaginative books I’ve had the pleasure of reading in quite some time. There’s warmth and depth to it, big ideas, a lot of questioning of human norms just beneath the surface, all wrapped up in a fantastical plot that pulls neither hares nor rabbits out of hats… the construction of the story is brilliant.
This is fiction for animists. Anything in this story might turn out to have a voice and intentions of its own. And yes, that does mean that we get some interesting issues around who is eating whom – I know as a child this would have freaked me out, but as an adult there are some uneasy moments that I really appreciated.
The art is lovely, and the illustrations in the paperback are delightful and add to the story. With hindsight I rather wish I’d gone after the full colour version instead.
One of the measures of a good novel, for me, is what happens when I’m not reading it. If I can put a book down and forget about it, then it isn’t doing much for me. If I think about the book when I’m not reading it, this is because it is gifting me in important ways. A book I have to think about has really caught my imagination and will lead me to ideas I’d not had before, and this is something I delight in. Two days after finishing Matlock Hare and the Treffelpugga Path I’m still thinking about it. I’m still wondering about the underlying story, back stories, motives, implications. One night I even dreamed in the language of the Dales, which is an unusual amount of a book getting into my head. Along the way, I have worried about characters, got angry over their mistreatment, and been relieved by their successes. Some of them I’m still pretty cross with.
I have book 2, and I’m going to pause and read other things before I get to it, I like to space these things out. I anticipate a book 3. So, is it the book for you? I hope so. If you liked Harry Potter but wanted it to be more, wanted the complex world of adult magic politics a bit more visible, wanted the magic a bit more magical and the writing a bit more lush… then yes, this is a book for you.
You can find out more about the book here – http://matlockthehare.com/
And there’s a guest post https://druidlife.wordpress.com/2014/05/20/matlock-the-hare/