Monday, June 15, 2009

De Lint's Novella Doesn't Pack As Much Punch as A Full-Length Novel

In an effort to whittle down the completely insurmountable number of 27 books from the library, someone suggested I start with the shortest. So that is what I did. I picked up The Dreaming Place by Charles de Lint (160 pgs, Firebrand, 2002) for a number of reasons. 1. I love Charles de Lint. 2. It is a fantastic choice for the Once Upon a Time Challenge - Mythic Fiction (or perhaps Folklore fiction). 3. Being Canadian, this is another selection for the Canadian Reading Challenge. More of a novella than a novel, The Dreaming Place is also part of the Newford Series.

"I didn't see you at school today, Nina," Judy said. "Were you sick?" "No, I just couldn't go in."

Nina Caraballo is having a hard time. Although she has a wonderful best friend, great parents, and is doing fantastic in school, she is having these awful dreams. She has started dreaming that she is an animal. It's usually random. One time, it's a cat. The next time it's a rabbit. But what makes these dreams such a problem is that they seem SO real. Almost like it's actually happening to her. And she is scared. In fact, she thinks that her cousin Ashley has put some kind of hex on her.

Ashley is the first cousin who lives with her. Although close to the same age, Ashley and Nina couldn't be any more opposite if they tried. Where Nina likes girly things and nail polish and boys, Ashley is broodier, angrier and spends most of her days wearing heavy metal t-shirts and hanging out at the occult store. Ashley's mother died in a horrible accident a few years before and her father just didn't want the responsibility of caring for her. Abandoned, she is now in the care of her aunt and uncle, and has such an anger inside her, she can hardly control it.

Although Ash didn't hex Nina, her anger has drawn a manitou spirit from the Otherworld, and that spirit has fixated on Nina. Can Ashley get over her anger to help her cousin? Or is Nana doomed to live in the Otherworld forever?

First of all, I have to say I'm a HUGE fan of Charles de Lint. The novels I've read (most notably, The Little Country and Memory and Dream) have been incredible. This short novella...not so much. One of the reasons that I love de Lint so much is his wonderful use of language to tell a story. It's rich and vibrant and brings to mind such wonderful pictures. In this short story, there just isn't the time to flesh out the characters as much as I would have liked. They seemed sort of "flat". This has always been my objection to short stories and novellas. And while some work, this one just didn't grab me.

This was also his first attempt at writing a book meant directly for the YA set. And it just didn't have the flare some of his other works do. Not that it's a bad book/story, because it's not. The idea behind it is really interesting. And I loved the Shamen Bones and his description of the Otherworld. I also liked the folklore and mythology behind the manitous. Maybe I just expected too much from this little book.

Regardless, I'm still going to read through the entire Newford series some day. Ever book gives you an other glimpse into this artful and magical place. This one just wasn't what I had hoped for. 3/5

PS. Check out my Music Munday Guest Post over at Kailana's The Written World!! It's a cool tribute to Girl Power Rock!!


Susan said...

Interesting, Stephanie, because I had a different reaction. I just read it recently too for the first time, and I thought it was as good as The Blue Girl, which I had problems with. I like the tightness of the plot, and the dream world, and how it was resolved. In fact, I want more of both of these girls!!!

I do love how Charles writes about faery and myths and the dreamworld.

Joanne ♦ The Book Zombie said...

I have this book, but I cannot read it yet. I'm terribly ocd about reading things in order. So after searching out DeLints recommended order I'm waiting on a copy of Dreams Underfoot, then I can move on to this one.
Sometimes being a reader is very :)

Stephanie said...

Susan - I haven't read The Blue Girl yet. And I liked the plot and the Dream World. I think it was mostly the characters and character development that bothered me. The other books by de Lint I've read have just been so much....more. I can't really even put into words why I didn't like this one as much.

Joanne - You know, I'm usually the most anal person when it comes to order. And to be honest, when I requested this book, I actually THOUGHT I'd requested Dreams Underfoot! But from what I've read, this can be a stand alone book, so I'm not to worried about it. I already screwed up and read Memory and Dream (didn't realize it was Newford). So...after this, I'll have to get back on track!

Grad said...

This is the second time in a couple of weeks that I've read a posting about Charles de Lint. Comments all suggest that he's someone I should be familiar with, but I had never heard of him before. Which of his books do you suggest I start with?

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity said...

I haven't read anything by de Lint, but I recently received Dreams Underfoot from a friend. I kind of have the same reaction to short stories that you do--sometimes they fall a little flat, but hopefully it will work as an introduction. Sorry this wasn't as good as you hoped.

Marg said...

I read this a few weeks ago and liked it. I am yet to be completely blown away by a de Lint. I like his writing, but not love it...yet. There's definitely enough potential there though.

Eva said...

I enjoyed it more than you, although I wish it had been a bit longer! I did think this felt like an early novel, though, so compared to say The Little Country it wasn't as good. I can see where you're coming from. :)

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