Monday, 29 September 2008

Mind the Gap by Christopher Golden & Tim Lebbon

Now for something a little different. Mind the Gap was the Kelley Armstrong book club book for August, however I got a little behind and ended up reading it in September. One of the things I most enjoy about the bookclub is the potential to expand your reading horizons, reading books you wouldn't normally read.

Mind the Gap follows Jasmine Towne, who following her mothers murder by the mysterious Uncles, hides in the forgotten tunnels of London's underground system. Here she meets a group of children - the United Kingdom - looked after by an old man called Harry. With nowhere else to go she joins them - but the Uncles haven't stopped looking for her.

I'm not sure this is a book I could recommend to others. I would say it's a Young Adult book, except for the use of the f-word throughout, and I'm not sure what adult market it's aimed at. But as I said at the beginning this isn't the type of book I usually read so I'm not going to know...I guess.

It's also somewhat depressing, painted in monochrome rather than colour. Pardon the pun - but there's little light at the end of the tunnel. It seems whenever Jaz thinks she's found a place or a person for herself something goes wrong. Don't get too fond of any endearing character.

Jaz as a heroine, didn't always ring true to me. In the flashbacks she doesn't always sound like a teenager. Her response when her mother wants to warn her about men.
"A Dali would woo me with his intellect, a Picasso would make me see things in a different way, and a Warhol would just show me his dick."
My niece and her friends are 14, and I don't think any of them know who Warhol is, let alone Picasso and Dali. And even if they had heard of them, I'm not sure they'd construct such an argument.

However, there was a lot here I enjoyed.

I felt like there were many Londons being woven into this story. Quite a lot of it had a Dickensian feel, the United Kingdom gang is reminiscent of Fagin and his boys from Oliver Twist. The use of the passage from Great Expectations towards the end of the book I thought worked really well.

There's also a slight fairy tale feel. Jaz likens herself to Wendy Darling (Peter Pan) and when she first descends into the Underground there is an atmosphere of Alice going down the rabbit hole.

The descriptions are wonderful and drew me into the book. When Jaz first flees into the Underground we're there on the Tube station with her, feeling the trains screaming past and seeing the unwelcome darkness of the tunnels. On the first burglary I was with Jaz as she entered the house, I felt her exhilaration and fear as she realizes there is another burglar in the house with her, and could almost taste the adrenaline rush as she decides to go ahead with her own robbery anyway.

It may seem from some of the above that there wasn't as much about the book that I enjoyed as I didn't. However, although this book isn't a keeper for me, I am glad I read it, after all you shouldn't get too stuck in your reading comfort zone.

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