Griffin and Sabine 25th Anniversary Edition: An Extraordinary Correspondence by Nick Bantock
|Griffin and Sabine 25th Anniversary Edition: An Extraordinary Correspondence by Nick Bantock|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: Twenty-five years on, there still has not been anything like this (apart for the half-dozen sequels, perhaps).|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 48||Date: May 2016|
|Publisher: Chronicle Books|
|External links: Author's website|
Oh Griffin and Sabine, where have you been all my life? I've loved epistolary novels and ones that take the narrative two-and-fro of letters and bring us closer to the sender than any omniscient narrator can hope to do. I've still got the childlike love of picking at an envelope stuck in a book to pull out a sheet of something else – not only is there the wonder at the handmade construction of something so bluntly and undeservedly called 'a book', but there is the frisson of being the first person to see this artefact ever. So how have I never seen this book before, and its cycle of sequels, concerning the correspondence between two completely different people?
The differences are many, not least in their location. She sends to him with a seven-cent stamp from a happy, sunny place in the South Pacific. He writes back, with a different collection of stamps making up to thirteen new pennies from London, and it's no real surprise to see he is less than happy there. The bizarre thing about this story, however, is how and why the correspondence has even been started in the first place.
And that correspondence is what we get. No editorialising, no filling in from elsewhere until the very end, no narration. We see the obverse and reverse of every postcard they send to each other. Both are in a position to have hand-made stationery, so every time one indulges in a letter we get the full artwork of the envelope – AND the envelope itself, with its echt contents, bad typing and all. How can you not like a book that does that – an adult market at last served with opening pockets up and seeing what's inside, fingers carefully opening envelopes up as if we were the person addressed?
Well, you might not like it once the conclusion has happened. I will only say it might be divisive. For one, the book proves to be quite short. For another it certainly raises enough questions to justify those sequels, and they will come with a cost involved, for this is no story you can just pick up and ignore. I dread to think of the publisher who first signed off on this – a half-story, brilliantly presented but brazenly open and begging for people to love it enough to (a) justify the production costs and (b) demand answers. Luckily, its eventual best-seller status, even if completely unknown to me, did justify two whole trilogies, and a concluding part that fans will lap up and then some. They will write home about this book.
This edition of it is fine; a 7" record-shaped volume, with stickers and an exclusive promo card for that final, seventh book. But I can only bluntly define the artefact for so long, for I have an audience to adhere to and a routine to stick to. Do I like this book? Well out of years of writing these articles, on this site and elsewhere, I have never come across a book about whose star rating I am least sure. I love it with a vengeance for being so fun to interact with, and so artfully presented (and the artworks are fine, with the way their individual styles converge being wonderful and subtle). But should I turn to the story and say, 'damn it – what kind of an ending is that?!' Where does bravura end and annoying begin? I guess the answer to that is 'somewhere between five and three stars' – and so that is where I settle. But rest assured, there is little settling to be done when shown such a wonderful, fantasia-filled world as this one.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
The nearest equivalent I can think of to this book, in being pictorial and PG-friendly yet definitely worthy of an adult audience, is the work of Shaun Tan.
You can read more book reviews or buy Griffin and Sabine 25th Anniversary Edition: An Extraordinary Correspondence by Nick Bantock at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Griffin and Sabine 25th Anniversary Edition: An Extraordinary Correspondence by Nick Bantock at Amazon.com.
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