Sunday, February 5, 2012

Book Review: Tajore Arkle by Jackie French

I know I've only been doing book reviews and not craft or recipe posts lately, but believe me, I haven't been cooking anything new or working on my craft projects at all.  I have another canvas sewing project half in my head and half done (I have painted the canvas, just need to do the sewing), but it's been like that for months now.  And I'm reading five books at once at the moment, so these reviews help me keep somewhat sane.

(Sorry about the resolution on this picture, it's the only one on the internet, and is from Jackie French's website)

One of the books I'm reading, that has made me put all of the other books on hold, is what I have recently realised is my favourite book*.  I've never been one to settle on favourites for long, and very rarely will reread a book, but I've just finished my third reading of Tajore Arkle by Jackie French, and I still love it as much as the first time.  Set on a world where everywhere but the poisonous Rift is barren, rocky, and dry, and life is tough, Anya is special.  Anya is a pastseer, remembering things that, in her short life, she's never actually learned or experienced.  When her warning about impending disaster comes true, the people of her isolated village believe that she is the cause of the disaster, even if she did not intend it, and she is sent away with a traveling trader.  What follows is a great and world-changing adventure that I'm not going to spoil!  Just pick up this book, it's only 200 or so pages (and aimed at older children or young adults), and well worth it.

Although it is aimed at older children or young adults, the story of searching for a place to belong, or making changes in your world until you belong, is something I think everyone can understand and relate to.  The characters and settings are so lovingly detailed that, especially upon multiple readings, I feel as if I know each of the named characters intimately.  The aridity of the land suitably dictates social practices (such as cutting one's hair very short and resisting the urge to cry), the struggle for survival (in Anya's concern for the supplies of sweetwater and mana), and the level of technology (thin slabs of rock are used in place of paper - it is so dry that trees are very rare and precious).  The animals - scitters, belsboks, harriers - also suit the landscape.  All of these factors lead to world-building that is exquisite, which is natural considering Tajore Arkle is the world that Jackie French lived in as a child, and the novel is only one of the world's many stories.  In the space of a few hundred pages, Jackie French describes an entire world, and leaves me desperate for more.  Unfortunately this is the only book she has published about this amazing world, and so I must be content to make up possible futures for Anya and her friends.

My only complaint about this perfect book is that it is no longer in print and I do not own a copy.  Our public library system has only two copies (our library system is the biggest in Australasia with 55 libraries to borrow from), so this is a tricky book to get hold of.  I have a dream that I will be casually exploring a second-hand bookshop on the other side of the world, and will find a copy hidden at the very back of the shop, waiting for me.  But I don't know if I can wait that long!  So, if you do find a copy, and do not want to keep it for yourself (you're mad, by the way!), please consider selling/giving it to me.  I would forever be in your debt.

Do you have a favourite book that you find yourself returning to over and over again?  That you can't stop talking about to anyone who will listen?  That, once you find out someone is interested in reading, you have to ask "have you read this book?", and badger them until they read it.  I hope that you own a copy of yours**!

*This is my all-time-forver-favourite book.  My favourite grown-ups' book is The Orange Girl by Jostein Gaarder (I think - so far I have only read it once).
**I once read an article about someone who insisted that one must have at least two copies of your favourite book - one that can be lent and become dog eared and dirty without making you upset, and one special copy that is all yours.

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