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~ Introduction ~
I've picked up this paperback from a charity shop recently as I was drawn to the synopsis at the back while my appetite was further whetted by two references to Mark Haddon (A Spot of Bother, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time) whose works I had read previously. With hindsight the comparison turned out to be wrong and now I'm more cautious about giving credit to such statements.
~ About the author ~
Clare Sambrook graduated from Cambridge and works as an investigative journalist. She debuted with Hide & Seek in 2004 a book well-received by critics. She lives in Cumbria and working on her second novel.
~ The plot ~
Harry aged 9 and his 5 year-old brother go on a school trip where the little brother goes missing. How will Harry cope not only with his loss but also his mother's and see the whole family disintegrating in front of his eyes? How much guilt a child can take on himself? Why is that the parents never tell you straight and think you are too small to understand what is going on?
~ Characterisation ~
The characterisation in the book is handled extremely well in my opinion, given that we see everything through a 9 year-old's eyes, starting with his buddies at school he hangs out with to his paents and uncle he admires. The character descriptions are tactile, three dimensional and are mainly done through their body language and observing their day-to-day behaviour, just as a child or even a baby captures the true essense of happenings and 'beings' like a radar that isn't fooled by superfluous words and put-on adult composure. Harry is so wired up in his mindframe to the adults surrounding him, that it is enough to make them feel and see for real, though not real for themselves but for Harry of course. We are big and you are small - they say. We know and you don't. Brilliant and touching at times and incredibly sad and heart-rending at others.
~ Reading experience ~
Hide & Seek is telling the slow paced and painful story of the aftermath of a disaster that had already happened and yet waiting to happen. You fear for this child and want to say STOP, don't hurt him any more but it goes on and on. I talk about mental hurt, the one you torture yourself with day in day out for years to come and finally become an insecure, anxious child who hides his / her feelings behind alternating behaviour of violence and submission, anger and compassion.
About one third into the story I was starting to feel depressed and I wasn't sure if I was going to able to carry on reading. It was because I inadvertently remembered some of my feelings I had when I was nine. A family break-up and the loss of my twin sister were responsible for the conservation of these bottled up emotions and confusion; feeling small and impotent to help my mother or myself. We were both depressed at a time.
On the other hand, I savoured the short, staccato sentences that came out from the pages like fresh grass in the cracked soil of the desert after rain and smiled at the ingenious associations kids can make. It must have come from personal experience to feel the mixed way I did but it needn't be. We all have our unique way of storing or evoking our mixed childhood experiences, but surely, Hide & Seek will probably create an echo in many of us. It never felt exaggerated however, always stayed tactful and sensible and not for one moment felt fake.
~ Conclusion ~
To sum up, a well-written novel that is unique in a way. I loved it for its tender and beautifully written sentences which makes you stop and think it was worth reading the book for that phrase alone and you want to scribble it somewhere to keep with you always. I do not think a lot of accomplished authors have had such an impact on me who, writing with the adult mind, rarely venture into the forgotten conscious of the child. In the end, the thoughts, even depressive ones, that hit hard there and then but whose impact is a gain in the end I can acknowledge and grow from. Having said that, for the moment I'll avoid reading any book of this kind. It's also recommended as a children's book and has a slightly larger print than usual. I do not recommend reading this to or by a child. The subject matter is way to heavy for children and I felt it did not really make a positive point that would lead somewhere out of its own darkness.
~ Price / where to buy ~
Amazon: £0.01 - £5.49
Thanks for reading.
©powered by lillybee also posted on Ciao! UK
I found this in a charity shop and the cover really pulled me in. I thought it looked very good and snapped it up for the bargain price of about 50p.
The story is about a young boy called Harry who has a younger brother Daniel. On a trip out with the school Daniel goes missing from the coach on a scheduled stop at a service station.
His parents are overcome with grief at his disappearance and Harry begins to feel responsible as he was on the coach too and had not realised that Daniel had not reboarded after their stop.
The problem I found with this story was that it was told through the eyes of Harry, who is 9 years old. He cannot, obviously, understand everything that is going on around him and therefore the reader is left to try and unjumble things that Harry is thinking and seeing through his eyes and turn it into some sort of adult meaning. I found this really irritating and difficult to read.
Also the main reason I picked up the book was because I wanted to read about Daniel and how he went missing and what became of him and the focus of the book is really not on this little boy. It leans much more heavily around Harry and his family and how they cope with having their little boy go missing.
His mother takes it really badly obviously and it is her deteriation that brings everyone else down and although this was emotional to read about, again it was all told through Harry's eyes and this made it extremely annoying.
This could have ben such a good story but by being told through a nine year old boy simply spoiled it for me and I didn't feel that it worked well at all.
One to avoid I think if you can.
Hide & Seek was something I bought as part of a special 3 for 2 offer without knowing much about it. It was actually the cover that had attracted my attention (different in hardback to paperback) and I thought it would make a good free book. How wrong I was! I couldnt put down the book and read through it very quickly. In fact I didnt know at some points whether I was reading fiction or non-fiction (it is fiction by the way).
I was very surprised to find this was her first novel possibly because the topic area was quite unusual I felt. Basically without giving too much away (and you can find this out from the blurb anyway) Harry has a younger brother who disappears and Harry feels responsible. Harry is 9 years old and it is through his eyes that Clare Sambrook tells the story and this is what makes the story all the more compelling. He tells it how it is, he cant understand a lot of the adult issues that occur in the book such as why his mother wants another child amongst other things. It makes it refreshing to see life how he sees it he is fascinated with certain bodily functions and relates his comments to this issue quite a lot!
A refreshing read that you possibly wont be able to put down. It is a traumatic topic, but it makes you laugh and cry surprisingly. I enjoyed it immensely! The only thing I would have liked is to find out a little more about Daniel's disappearance - however, as it is written from Harry's perspective and not an adults, I guess that's why we don't.
Touching, sad and very funny.