Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Book of Story Beginnings, Kristin Kladstrup

The Book of Story Beginnings, Kristin Kladstrup

Like the title, the book's start is worthy of a book, but peters out after that.
3 stars (FlipkartAmazon USAmazon UKAmazon CAKindle USKindle UKKindle CA, Powell's)

The problem, nay - the challenge, with writing a good book is not the beginning, though unsuccessful writers find ways to make a hash of even this. It is the middle of the book that maters the most. Of course, the climax is like the icing on the cake, and sour cream does not a good icing make. It is the bulky middle that takes the tiny sparks of a good beginning and sustains it through to a hopefully satisfying end. This book, "The Book of Story Beginnings", suffers from a strong start that magically sucks you in, but which leaves you in a sort of storytelling vacuum for much of the middle. In fact, within a few pages of the  plot starting out in earnest, I had lost interest. I persevered through to the end, and while the book did pick up somewhat, the beginning belied the book.

Haven't we all, at some point or other, wanted to write a story? This is the magic of good stories - from the earliest stories that we have with us - the Panchatantra, that they make us want to be part of them, to come alive in one of their magical adventures. Since these are happy tales - most of them, we believe that we would also have happy adventures. But what if only the beginning of the story was upto us, and the rest depended on our wits? Such is the challenge facing both Lucy and Oscar. Oscar writes the beginnings of a story, finds himself surrounded by an ocean in the middle of Iowa, sails away in a boat, and is presumed lost, forever, till he shows up back home one find day, several decades later, to find that the house he lived in is now the home of his grand neice, Lucy. Lucy's parents are living in this house, that Lucy's father inherited from Oscar's now departed sister, Aunt Lavonne. Lucy ends up turning her father into a magician, and then a bird. How will they find Lucy's father? And do they have any control over the story they have begun? Can they write its ending, just as they unwittingly wrote its beginning?

This is the delicious beginning of the story. Where it falters is the middle, where, despite the presence of the de-rigueur slightly mad king and queen and lots of cats and lots of birds, the plot seems as lost as Lucy and Oscar. While fairy tales have a strong element of the fantastic that requires a willing suspension of disbelief, this book tries too hard to bridge the gap between the plausible and the impossible. This is a magical adventure tale - the author forgets the magical part at times, and this is what lets the book down, keeping it firmly stuck in the interesting and intriguing but not quite memorable.

ISBN 10: 0763634190
ISBN 13: 9780763634193, 9780763626099
Kindle Excerpt:

© 2013, Abhinav Agarwal (अभिनव अग्रवाल). All rights reserved.