A Key to Treehouse Living by Elliot Reed
|A Key to Treehouse Living by Elliot Reed|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Ruth Ng|
|Summary: One of the most unusual books I've ever read, but it worked for me. Intriguing, engaging and ultimately a moving story.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 240||Date: March 2020|
|Publisher: Melville House UK|
|External links: Author's website|
This is the story of a young boy, William Tyce, who is being raised by his uncle after the death of his mother and his father's abandonment. However, it isn't told in the usual narrative way. Instead, the book is made up of glossary entries, written by William, as a way of describing certain events, situations and emotions. It runs alphabetically, starting with ABSENCE, then moving to ALPHABETICAL ORDER. As I began to read I did find myself thinking 'what on earth?!' but I soon grew used to the style, and was instead caught up in William's story.
I often find stylistic tricks in literary works to be tiring. I never did finish reading Joyce's Ulysses, and it just glowered on my shelf through my entire English Literature Degree with my sad bookmark forever stuck about fifty pages in. This book, however, felt different. I understood the idea behind the glossary, and it told us a lot about William's character that this was how he arranged and compartmentalised his life, and the way he had found to be able to express his feelings, and explain the events happening around him. I did wonder, at first, if I should be reading it not in a linear fashion, and if I need to follow all the further references, for example the BETTA FISH entry finishes with a see DREAMS OF THE BETTA FISH note. But after attempting that, I lost track of where I was in the book so went back to a normal page by page progression!
I generally enjoy books with a child narrator, and the experience of reading this one was really interesting. It felt like more of a challenge than a typical story, but not inaccessible. The only thing I did notice was that as I read, I put it down more frequently than I might otherwise have done with a typical novel. I found the entries, though small, felt like more to take in each time, so it took me some time to read, as I kept coming back to it bit by bit. So it ended up being more of an experience to read, which was no bad thing, and I enjoyed the challenge of a book telling a story in a really different, unusual way.
William goes on a journey in the story, both through his writing and in his life too. In an attempt to understand where his father went and why, and after various things happening to him, he winds up floating down a river on a raft, searching for answers. All sorts of strange things happen to him along the way, and I did struggle a little more with this older William than I had with the younger William. I felt the coherence between entries slipped slightly, and I lost track of what was happening more than I had earlier in the book. But the final few entries were very well done, and it ultimately felt like a moving, uplifting read.
Further reading: For more unusual writing you might like to try The Taste of Apple Seeds by Katharina Hagena and Jamie Bulloch (Translator).
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