Jellicoe Road

I read it again last night.



Not as deep as the first time, last summer.


Sometimes I almost wish it hadn't won a shiny sticker, because too many people slurp award books, and Jellicoe should be discovered on a back shelf, turned about, weighed, flipped through, sniffed and then carried toward the door.

All the time I wish I could write like this. This bloody brilliant ... this bloody incandescent. A story that shreds, and people who make you love them so much without even trying, and pull you back again, hand over hand.

"...I'm frightened that one morning there will not be enough to keep me going. Except maybe the pages I'm holding in my hands. They comfort me, these characters, like they're my best friends, too. Like Jude when he returned that second year and they were waiting for him."

And I want to say to people who think they can write YA fiction, read Jellicoe Road. Again and again. You don't just walk into a kitchen and cook. You pore through recipes, your eyes blear over Betty Crocker, you eat and sleep and breathe Julia Child, like that Meryl Streep movie, and then, finally, you set out your ingredients.

So many people say, oh, I've always wanted to write young adult novels. And they have no idea. They even write them, and when I glance through the pages I think of that scene in Sleeping Beauty.

Fauna: I'm going to bake the cake.

Merryweather: You?

Flora: She's always wanted to, dear, and this is her last chance.

Merryweather: Well, ...

Fauna: I'm going to make it fifteen layers with pink and blue, forgive-me-nots ...

Flora: And I'm making the dress.

Merryweather: But you can't sew, and she's never cooked!

Flora: Oh, it's simple.

Fauna: All you do is follow the book.

[Flora directs Merryweather to stand on a chair]

Flora: Up here dear, you can be the dummy.

Merryweather: Well, I still say we ought to use magic.

[Flora throws a sheet of pink cloth above Merryweather and begins cutting with a pair of scissors. Fauna has laid all the ingredients for the cake before her.]

Fauna: [reads from the book] Flour, three cups. [searching] Cups, cups, cups, cups, cups ... [finds three cups of different sizes and uses them to pour flour into the bowl] One, two, three.

[Flora has cut a circular hole into the sheet]

Merryweather: What's that for?

Flora: Well, it's got to have a hole in the bottom.

Fauna: That's for the feet to go through.

Fauna: [still reads from the book] Two eggs, fold in gently Fold? Oh well.

[Fauna puts two eggs into the bowl and starts to fold them in. We hear their shells cracking. Merryweather is completely hulled into the pink cloth]

Merryweather: I can't breathe!

[Flora cuts the cloth open at the top. Merryweather takes a look at the dress from the inside]

Merryweather: It looks awful.

Flora: That's because it's on you, dear.

Fauna: [at her cake] Now yeast, one tisp. Tisp?

Merryweather: One teaspoon!

Fauna: One teaspoon, of course.

I still say we ought to use magic. Read Jellicoe Road.

1 comment:

cuileann said...

Ohw this book...! Read it in February. I remember it as tangly and aching.

I need to reread it.