D (A Tale of Two Worlds)

by Michel Faber

Apparently, this novel was written to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the death of Charles Dickens. . As such, Michel Faber wonderfully inserts little allusions to various novels written by Dickens.  (ie. Beak House, Magwhich) If you’re looking for a good read-aloud for junior high D (A Tale of Two Worlds) is absolutely delightful and you don’t have read any novels by Charles Dickens to enjoy this novel.

Our main character,  Dhikilo, is originally from Somaliland. She does not know her birth parents and was adopted by an English couple. Dhikilo has friends, but she has never felt she belonged. It could have been because of the colour of her skin, It could have been because she was adopted, and it could have been because of the uniqueness of her name.

One day all the “ds” begin to disappear from the world. She noticed the missing Ds first from the newspaper her father is reading then next from her mother’s speech. On her way to school, she notices Ds missing from all the signs, from all the books, and from all conversation. During this confusing time of D’s disappearance, Dhikilo’s favourite teacher, Professor Dodderfield, dies and she feels compelled to go to the funeral…..but she discovers this teacher isn’t really dead! Instead, Professor Dodderfield sends her to a magical world Liminus (with his Dog Mrs Robinson who turns into a sphinx at a whim) to stop the disappearance of the Ds.

From here on in Dhikilo and Mrs. Robinson encounter a variety of interesting characters and creatures on their way to confront the Great Gamp who seems to be the one who is stealing all the Ds by using glittering dragonflies.

“one careless insect lost its grip and the shining piece fell to the ground…it was already dissolving into the snow but it stilled glowed. Dhikilo knelt down.. and touched the disintegrating D with her bare fingertips. Immediately, she had a vivid mental picture-like a film projected straight into her brain- of a camel. A camel with one hump. A dromedary. Then the D shriveled into nothing and the vision of the dromedary faded from her imagination” pg 104. 

This is a wonderful novel the teach descriptive writing (the Magwitches with long dirty straggly hair the colour of the stuff you take out of the vacuum cleaner” 107-108)

It is also a novel that can be used to discuss the themes of prejudice, strength, family, courage and friendship.

So if you are looking for a fantasy novel to read D (a Tale of Two Worlds) is a short, easily accessible and highly entertaining novel to chose.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

Adaline lives in 17th century France with 17th-century societal expectations- she must marry. Now Addie doesn’t want to get married. She wants to travel and learn and meet new people. She definitely doesn’t want to keep a home and have babies. So she does the only thing she can do to get out and makes a deal with the devil. Being a master equivocator, the devil distorts the bargain, yes, she will be free to travel and learn and meet new people however she will be immortal, and tragically be immediately forgotten by anyone and everyone she meets, making it impossible to forge any relationship whatsoever. Addie truly becomes invisible and must maneuver through the centuries on her wit and with only her own company. Sure the devil pops in every year or so to bully her, and as anyone would, accepts his company because, of course, he is the only “friend” she has. 

Until …

one day she enters a book store where she is remembered. Now what? What will the devil do with these new sets of circumstances? Or is the devil himself who has placed this “person who remembers” in her path just to taunt and torture her.

I really loved this book. It reminded me of other novels where our protagonist is immortal and weaves his/her way through the centuries. Pilgrim by Timothy Findley and Orlando by Virginia Wolfe come to mind. However I found this novel much easier to consume- in fact, I read it in just over a day.

Philosophy, history, romance, fantasy, all included within the pages of this book along with several loving tributes to art and literature make this novel one of my favourites of the year. 

I was given a free copy of this novel by NetGalley and MacMillian-Tor books (thank you!) but I will most certainly be purchasing one for my bookshelf. It will be work a re-read in the future.