Wednesday, 5 October 2016

THE LIBRARY AT MOUNT CHAR BY SCOTT HAWKINS - REVIEW

“Peace of mind is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to cope with it.”


(Courtesy of Goodreads.com)
I remember adding The Library at Mount Char to my TBR list on the merit of "oh, that's a cool cover, is this a thriller set in a library or something? Neat!". Until I actually started reading it I hadn't actually looked at a blurb, synopsis or description cause, well I actually don't know. I think I trusted that a book with such a cool cover would probably be equally as cool, so you can imagine my surprise when I started the first chapter which consisted of a lady (Carolyn) who said she was a librarian, but not a conventional librarian (to be explained later), that she loved guacamole, and that she was covered head to toe in the blood of a police officer she murdered, all while walking back to her library along a huge main road like it was no big deal.

I wish I could say that this book calmed down after this rather drastic opening, but it;s a wild ride for the rest of the novel and it is absolutely amazing. it is a bit confusing at first and I did often flick back just to check that I hadn't skimmed over an important bit of information that would explain half of the weird things going on, but I soon realised that Hawkins just chucks you in, with no life jacket, in to the deep unknown that is his novel and waits till he has to give you the information, which you take in with a oh my god that makes so much sense now, that is mental! Weirdly, even though so much gets held back from you and things aren't fully explained until later on, it didn't actually annoy me as a reader it weirdly made it a better read? I know, who would've thought a book that deliberately confuses it's reader with otherworldly jargon would be a good thing, but it really is. It fits with the nature of the novel which is: Carolyn is one of Father's twelve adopted children who have followed his ancient customs and been privy to different parts of his library, which holds the knowledge of his powers of immortality, resurrection, creation of dimensions and so on.

“Steve sighed, wishing for a cigarette. “The Buddha teaches respect for all life.” “Oh.” She considered this. “Are you a Buddhist?” “No. I’m an asshole. But I keep trying.”

Carolyn is an expert in languages, from the basic French or Spanish, to the languages of animals, the storms of Jupiter and languages of civilisations dead for thousands of years. Her siblings include Jennifer, a pot-head who can heal and resurrect the dead; Margaret who is Father's connection to the land of the dead, gets murdered every week and is best friends with severed heads (that she reanimates); Micheal, who studies the library of Animals, meaning he can speak and communicate to pretty much every animal out there, and David, who reads strictly from the War and Murder section of the library, wears a tutu, army jacket, has a Fu Manchu moustache and has a helmet of blood coating his head as he, well...he squeezes the blood out of the heart of every person he kills on to his head. No, I am not making this up, these really are the characters of this book. I told you that it's a wild ride.

The story fixates around the disappearance and possible death of Father and how his children cannot get back into their Library due to some unknown force, of which Carolyn is trying to figure out. I cannot go any more into the plot of this novel or I will truly spoil it and this book cannot be spoilt or else it won't have the same wonderful effect when everything finally comes together and makes sense at the end. The best thing about this novel for me is the amount of twists and turns that happen as you read it, nothing is as simple as it may seem and every act seems to have a motive or reason, even if seemingly random. It is this complexity that I loved in this novel, and I have a large amount of respect for Hawkins for writing such a wonderful and unique novel.

It isn't a novel for everyone however, being extremely gory and, when I read other reviews, some find the notion of having details held back frustrating and found the novel hard to read as a result, but I would recommend at least trying to pick this up. It is extraordinarily unique, fascinating and, for a first novel, extremely well crafted and well-written. I'm now currently waiting to see if Hawkins releases some kind of sequel or companion story as I'm so into the universe and characters of The Library at Mount Char that one book really isn't enough.

Rating: ★★★★

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