Dying to Know You by Aidan Chambers
|Dying to Know You by Aidan Chambers|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: A wonderful book about friendship, words, and our deepest, most hidden selves. Elegant, precise prose and wonderful dialogue in which space has as much to say as words. This is a book to return to. Discerning readers will love it.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 288||Date: April 2012|
|Publisher: Bodley Head|
|External links: Author's website|
Longlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2013
Karl is seventeen and hopelessly caught in the throes of first love. The object of his affections is Fiorella, a girl who seems above him so many ways. Fiorella's family is both healthy and wealthy, while Karl's father is dead and his mother gets by but not much more. Fiorella is a bright girl on her way to university, while Karl is dyslexic and has left school to work as a blue collar apprentice plumber. Fiorella is articulate, while Karl is reserved.
When Fiorella gives Karl a list of questions and asks him to write down his views on aspects of love, Karl is afraid. If Fiorella discovers his dyslexia, she will think him stupid and finish things with him. So Karl enlists a local writer, much admired by Fiorella, to help him with his replies. And thus begins a friendship between a teenager and a septuagenarian that will teach each a great deal about one another, themselves, love, and life itself...
I found Dying to Know You utterly charming and completely absorbing and I know I'll return to it many times. There are many themes to explore - friendship, grief, age, words, the act of creation - and each forms a layer that connects and intersects with every other. Its beautiful prose, so precise, considered and elegant, soothed my soul. It's easy to read but it's not an easy read so it will give more to the committed reader than the one who races through a plot until they get to the denouement.
And it's an object lesson both in writing dialogue and in understanding that the spaces between words are often as important than the words themselves. Any aspiring writer should read Dying to Know You to see what less is more is all about. I have read a great many blockbusting dystopian novels of late and this wonderful piece of understatement came as more of a welcome change than I can begin to describe.
Highly, highly recommended.
After the Flood by L S Matthews is another super book about the nature of friendships between the old and the young. And if it's a spare, precise, elegant prose style you're after, then you could make a sea change in terms of topic and choose WE by John Dickinson, a wonderful sci-fi epic.
Dying to Know You by Aidan Chambers is in the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize 2012.
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