Light Boxes by Shane Jones

From TheBookbag
Jump to navigationJump to search

Light Boxes by Shane Jones

Buy Light Boxes by Shane Jones at or

Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Robin Leggett
Reviewed by Robin Leggett
Summary: Full of vibrant imagery, this quirky novella has a magical, ethereal quality that is easily digested in one sitting.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 176 Date: June 2010
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton
ISBN: 978-0241144954

Share on: Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on Instagram and LinkedIn

You will have to go a long way to find a more magical and quirky novella than ‘Light Boxes’. Set in a far off land, as all good fairy stories should be, the balloon-loving residents suffer a ban on all forms of flight. But the culprit is not some unpronounceable Icelandic volcano, but rather February. And this February - who takes both the form of a person and a season - has lasted for more than three hundred days. And if that wasn’t bad enough, he has also started making children disappear. One man, Thaddeus Lowe, is determined to do something about it.

There’s a great sense of dark beauty in this little book - and it is little, both in number of pages and its pocket sized format. It’s absolutely full of vibrant imagery that is both surreal and ethereal. It’s no surprise that Shane Jones is also a poet as this book sits somewhere between poetry and novella. Yes, it does have a plot, but the experience of reading it is strangely one of looking at a picture book in that each short chapter (usually only a page or two) paints a vibrant image, some of which are beautiful, some scary and gruesome and some just plain weird.

It’s also full of images of childhood fantasies and literature. So we have balloons, kites, secret passages, ghosts, lanterns, parchment messages and cups of mint tea. On top of that, you’ve got the personification of February and his wife, the beautifully named ‘girl who smells of honey and smoke’ as well as a mysterious group of balloonists called ‘The Solution’ who go around wearing masks. Is this all sounding very strange indeed? I hope so, because if it is, then I’m giving you a good insight into what to expect from this intriguing book.

Jones uses a variety of typefaces and fonts to tell his story which is told from a variety of first person narrators and a third party narrator. So shouts are in large bold type while whispers are in minuscule font sizes. It all adds to the highly visual sense that this story creates.

I would suggest that it’s a book best read in one sitting which is not hard to do. I’m in two minds as to its suitability for younger children. It’s very much of the Brothers Gimm style of fairy tale rather than the French watered down versions and it’s far more surreal and complex than a real fairy story. But more imaginative older children may well find it interesting - but keep your fingers crossed that they don’t ask you to explain any of it! It’s certainly an adult book - just very much on the magical end of the magical realism spectrum. Think Gabriel Garcia Marquez. In fact there is at least one part that strongly reminded me of One Hundred Years of Solitude in its imagery.

Although not strictly relevant to a review of this book, you might be interested to know that there was a real life Thaddeus Lowe who was a pioneering balloonist-spy in the American Civil War. I wonder what he would make of his new literary life.

It’s a book that shows a deep sympathy for humanity and I can see it being a cult hit. It’s well worth checking out.

Many thanks to the nice people at Hamish Hamilton for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If this has put you in a grown up fairy story mood, then I’m sure you would enjoy Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan while for another fantastic book that uses variation in typefaces to tell different characters’ stories then The Book of Human Skin by Michelle Lovric is hard not to enjoy.

Please share on: Facebook Facebook, Follow us on Twitter Twitter and Follow us on Instagram Instagram

Buy Light Boxes by Shane Jones at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Light Boxes by Shane Jones at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Light Boxes by Shane Jones at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Light Boxes by Shane Jones at


Like to comment on this review?

Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.