Monday, 20 December 2010
Review: Tall Story by Candy Gourlay
Whimsical and unusual, Tall Story blends magic realism with contemporary themes in a tale that's full of charm. Narrated by Andi and her (really) big brother Bernardo in alternating points of view, it's book that offers insight into the immigrant experience from two quite distinct perspectives. One on hand we have Andi, who is both English and half-Filipino, and whose knowledge of the Philippines is limited to one visit as a small child and the things her mother has told her. On the other we have Bernardo, who has waited for years for his family reunion but also finds it difficult to leave his life in the village of San Andres behind. To Bernardo, London is strange and intimidating and thrilling; and to Andi, Bernardo himself is pretty strange.
Aided by the dual perspective, Tall Story explores its themes with pathos and humour. Readers will come to empathise with Bernardo through the chapters he narrates, but they'll also appreciate the more comical way that he's sometimes portrayed from Andi's point of view. Similarly, Andi can come across in her chapters as a little bit of a brat, but Bernardo sees her through more forgiving eyes. The two narrative strands also reflect how different their lives have been until now, as Andi tells a tale of basketball dreams thwarted by her school team's boys-only rule, whereas Bernardo's story of magic and curses makes greater use of imagery and fairytale elements. Like Andi and Bernardo themselves, their stories seem worlds apart at first but might just be headed towards some common ground.
Tall Story is a smart and emotionally satisfying read with definite crossover appeal. It's a book with the power to make readers laugh, cry, and remember what's most important in life. While it's probably aimed at those in the ten to fourteen age group, I suspect that older readers will take just as much from it. Plus, a basketball playing heroine? There just aren't enough of those.
Out: 27th May 2010, UK
Thank you to Random House UK for providing a review copy of this book.