Review of ABARAT by CLIVE BARKER
(first in the ABARAT series)
I first read this book back in college, on the recommendation of a friend, and remember being beguiled by the complex, extraordinary world Barker crafted. This one lives up to a second read as well as my flattering memories.
Candy lives a mundane life in a small town with her mother and alcoholic, abusive father. Then one day everything stops making sense, but becomes a magical adventure in the breakdown of logic. A sea sweeps in to the middle of a field - yes, a sea - and pulls Candy from her world into another: the world of Abarat. Here each hour of the day is an island, each one strange and different in its own way. There’s also an island for the 25th hour, the time out of time, but we won’t get into that yet.
In case you haven’t caught on, this book is weird. Writing weird is difficult, because tastes vary so much. Sometimes I find weird stories and I mean the adjective as a confused insult. In this case, when I call ABARAT “weird” I mean wonderfully, beautifully, enchantingly weird. Exactly my kind of weird. From invented creatures to how the magic works to surprising plot twists, here you’ll find page after page of the unexpected...and it feels like that sea swept you out to another world, too.
My only complaint has more to do with the specific edition of the book I read. The author is also an artist who paints dozens of images from his stories. The first time I read this book I borrowed it from the friend who recommended it, and her copy had the author’s paintings sprinkled throughout the story, almost every page. When I decided to re-read this one, I bought my own copy, not even realizing it was a copy without the illustrations. Get the illustrations! Get the illustrations! They add so much to the story...and the weirdness.
This tale transported me to Abarat and has lingered in the back of my mind for years. It’s one of those rare books that feels like its own kind of magic and reminds me why I’m in love with reading.