The Pharos Gate (Griffin & Sabine) by Nick Bantock

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The Pharos Gate (Griffin & Sabine) by Nick Bantock

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: What has clearly been a much-loved and well-sustained cycle of books finally reaches an end. It might not be the most satisfying of full stops, however.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 60 Date: March 2016
Publisher: Chronicle Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781452151250

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It's all about the ending. We are promised that this is the seventh and final fragment of the story cycle that began with Griffin and Sabine, and that it is valid as a stand-alone read. That original book had a most note-worthy ending in itself, but things certainly went against the finality of that through the numerous sequels. Is the big ending here such, after all, or should we stop reading this begging for more?

Well, I'm afraid the answer is neither. The title characters, from across the miles, have decided they are entwined in a permanent, meaningful way – call it love, if you like, and that word is used by both although certainly not at every opportunity – but there is something once more that is looking at a metaphysical connection. Once again the story is told to us through our witnessing the correspondence, so we get reproductions of postcards – both sides on both sides of a sheet – and the imagery front and back of every envelope, with the letter contained ready for our delectation.

What has changed is an increase in the amount of characters, and the artwork, which to my mind has certainly turned for the worse, being now more collage-based. Gone seems to be the story that the pictures were allowed to tell by themselves last time. They still do provide a different mood to the book, one which is of course elevated by the sustained intrigue in reading the postcards and fetching the letters out of their containers.

But what felt the most serious flaw to me was the fact that the story both seemed to tread water, and provide nothing that surprised – certainly not to the extent the original did. I don't know what I should have expected, but I think guessing the conclusion about halfway through what is again a short read was not it. Inevitability, fate and metaphysical questions of yin and yang meeting regardless, I think things needed to be a little different. With the conclusion we got here, I was certainly left wondering how the other five books stopped the characters in their tracks (or not) but I did find this a little bit of an ignominious bowing out after twenty-five years. It surely is a sign of flaws that I was more intrigued by the other, prior endings than the potential of reading the other stories. So if you are a fan of this series – and I can see how easy it would be to be one – and you feel this could be the be-all and end-all, I think you would have to start thinking again.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

For more letter collections, we recommend Dear Mr Bigelow: A Transatlantic Friendship by Frances Woodsford.

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