Twelve Nights, by Andrew Zurcher

img_2078This novel was warmly recommended to me by a fellow ‘bookstagrammer’. And then the author was very kind to send me a finished copy! And I am very happy he did, because Twelve Nights turned out to be a unique read.

So here is the blurb from Penguin Uk website, my review follows.

Kay’s father is working late- as usual. Fed up, her mother bundles Kay and her sister into the car, and drives to his Cambridge college to collect him.
But, the staff say nobody by his name has ever worked there.
When they return home, Kay discovers a card left on her pillow:
Will O. de Wisp, Gent. F.H.S.P. and Phillip R. T. Gibbet, Gent. F.H.S.P. K.Bith. REMOVALS.
That night, Kay is woken by voices at her window: the voices of Will and Phillip, the Removers. But they are not human. And Kay shouldn’t be able to see them. Except she can…

With that Kay embarks on a quest to rescue her father from… disappearance? And we follow her around Europe — with a detour to Egypt–, through ordeals and little success, discoveries and strange meetings. Looking for her father, she will also find the truth about her identity, and the secrets of her family.

The world we discover here is full of myths and traditions. A world where a balance exists between plotters and dreamers, who together weave — literally– the most beautiful stories. A world threatened by a mysterious tyrant.

“So was the world and all that was in it brought to destruction by a childish overreaching, a greed born of despair that would rather kill the thing it covets than suffer others to enjoy it.”

And Kay and her family may be the key to save the world’s fragile harmony.

There is a dreamlike quality to this book. First because some of the situations, places and people encountered are quite surrealist. But also because when I started reading it, especially the parts where the wraiths talk about stories, it rang an echo inside me, it felt right somehow, true, as if they were telling something I already knew. But then, when looking back more closely, I struggled to put together all the threads of a tapestry that seemed so whole and perfect a moment before. Just as when you dream, everything seems to make sense in the moment, but when you wake up, you can not quite recapitulate the coherence of your dream experience, everything seems blurred.

“‘So the reality isn’t as beautiful, then?’ […]

‘It is – but its beauty is of midday, and is a beauty that cloys and stales because it is open. The beauty of night never fades because it is a beauty that has not yet shone, a beauty of  hope, of expectation, of desire.'”

Slowly however, I was able to piece things together, reconciling the significance my reason could understand to the meaning my heart had already grasped. Still, I think this is a book meant to be felt more than analysed. It is true poetry, with an entrancing quality. It tells of stories you know without knowing, of a beauty you experience without naming it. It is an ode to the power of imagination, of stories; no, to the necessity of it.

“We should have foreseen, when the armies burned the temple and replaced it with churches to their blind gods, what it would mean for the imaginers.”

A dense, complex novel that takes you on uncharted territories, while also remaining familiar, full of famous references. (The title itself may be a reference to Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night, which itself might be a reference to the Epiphany, i.e. the manifestation of light, of truth…. but that is pure speculation.)

“The much-vaunted imagination of a human child – the very bed and heart of what people naively called ‘humanity’- was nothing more than a piece of clockwork.”

The novel was published by Puffin, so aimed at children, but it may be quite demanding for the youngest of them. I think children aged 13 and more would most appreciate it. And adults of course. This book is poised to be a divider though. The lyrical, meandering quality of it may not appeal to everyone. But I savoured every bit of it.

“Sometimes there are truths and comforts and way in stories that are not apparent outside stories. Sometimes stories are answers, or make answers possible. Sometimes they are the mothers of stories.”

Conclusion : a complex and rich tale that I would recommend if you like poetic language and are willing to get swept away in an oneiric universe.

If you want to get your hands on this ethereal beauty, head over there.

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