Inkheart, by Cornelia Funke
I picked this one up because my father said, “Have you read Inkheart yet? You would really love it.” And then my aunt said, “you haven’t read Inkheart? You really HAVE to.” On Christmas, she wrapped up my cousin’s old battered copy and put it under the tree for me. Anyone over the age of 21 doesn’t get gifts from extended family, that is the rule, but a re-gift is allowed and welcomed. I was so excited to start it.
It is exactly the sort of book I should like, and I know I would have devoured it with relish had I found it twenty years earlier. I read it today with a mild sort of amusement that never took hold to become obsession. I know this is not because it’s a children’s book that it didn’t quite pull me in, although I was always on the brink of it. There were a number of problems I had with it that I just couldn’t seem to get over.
The biggest problem for me was the character of the writer. The good guys find the writer of the book and convince him to write a new, happy ending. That is how they solve the main crisis. It’s a little more complicated than that, but not much. The writer isn’t even hard for them to find. It seemed like such a cop-out.
I was also not very convinced (for a long time), that the bad guys were all that bad. They were mostly token bad guys – shooting cats in the alley, imprisoning children, and generally thieving, bullying, and being thugs. I was never really afraid that the good guys wouldn’t win. There was a fascination with fire that ran through the whole novel that I also felt was never fully realized.
The original novel is in German. I read a translation, and I’ve decided that I’m pinning all the problems on the translator (even the plot points that are really the fault of the writer). Aside from the things above, the book really is a wonderful romp. My favorite parts were the bits from other novels that were sprinkled throughout. They were so fun to recognize, like coming across old friends. Tinker Bell comes to life in it, and Long John Silver (thankfully) does not. It also features a spunky elderly aunt who is hilarious. You have to love Eleanor.
In short, I would recommend the read and I’m glad I read it myself. I know there are sequels, and I’m left with a comfortable feeling that I don’t need to purchase the next one, but that I might enjoy it if I decided to some day. If you have an eleven year old reader at home, they will probably be obsessed.