The Thornthwaite Inheritance by Gareth P Jones
|The Thornthwaite Inheritance by Gareth P Jones|
|Genre: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Stefan Bachmann|
|Summary: A promising central concept is ruined by cluttered plotting and a flat, unfunny writing-style.|
|Buy? No||Borrow? Maybe|
|Pages: 288||Date: July 2009|
|Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC|
Orphaned twins Lorelli and Ovid live all alone with their servants in great and gloomy Thornthwaite Manor. They are only permitted to wear black, are served only bland, unseasoned food, and may listen to nothing but sad and sombre music. Since they don't go to school, and television is not allowed, they spend their days playing chess, reading books, trying to kill each other, and riding horses. But their charmed lives are interrupted when a lawyer and his annoyingly cheerful son Adam come to stay. With their arrival, dark secrets begin to surface - secrets about the twins' past, their vast inheritance, and their mysteriously deceased parents - secrets that will change their lives forever.
I liked Ovid. Murderous tendencies aside, I think we would get along smashingly were we ever to meet. We're about the same age, both play piano with a certain degree of proficiency, and both hate the constantly smiling Adam (really, I did). Lorelli was also all right. Neither of them act as clever as the author would have us believe they are; they do silly things, get themselves into compromising situations, have very un-clever vocabularies, and don't even understand simple Latin phrases, but all the same, I thought they were appealingly done, and they carried the book well.
While I'm still on the subject of liking, I also appreciated the music. There are a lot of fiction books that have characters playing music in one form or another, and that proceed to describe this music in poetic and abstract terms. When I get to those parts I always desperately want to turn the page and find the sheet music there. For obvious reasons, it never happens. So when I turned over a page of this book and found two bars, ten notes, of ultra simplistic music, I was elated. I'm giving this book an extra half star just for that.
Now. Thornthwaite's first problem is that it has far to many things going on in it. I don't mind complex stories, but I seriously thought a good chunk of the goings-on was unnecessary. New characters are forever popping up, old ones are discarded randomly, and the same goes for many of the sub-plots. In fact, so many strands are started, that over the last fifty pages the author is forced to dash madly in order to tie them all up, pelting us with one twist after the other. Numbers one and two were ok. After the second, third, fourth and fifth, I was starting to phase-out.
But I could have gotten over all that. What really spoiled the book for me was the writing. It's not bad in the sense of being always grammatically unintelligible; it's just so utterly flat and uninteresting. The author's voice displays none of the cleverness, sharp wit, or black humour I was hoping for, and that the cover illustration led me to expect. I think this sort of book absolutely must be funny. I think it needs a prose-style that's quirky and confident enough to distract the reader from the outrageous central concept, and, if not completely convinced them that twins trying to kill each other is actually quite hilarious, at least manage to suspend their disbelief for a while.
It isn't and it doesn't. All we see is a pair of psychotic teenagers trying to murder each other, and I'm sure everyone will agree that's not very funny at all. Too bad. It could have been a great read.
Bloomsbury, you're still the coolest children's publisher in the UK, so thanks lots for sending Bookbag a copy!
Lemony Snicket's The Bad Beginning, I believe, is what this book wanted to be. The original is much better. Bookbag gave it two stars because it's rather blatantly commercial, but honestly, kids don't really care what's commercial: if we like it, we like it, and if all our friends like it, too, and all their friends and their friend's friends, all the better! I say buy it. Parents might say something else...
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