Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Book Review: Natalie Babbitt - Tuck Everlasting

I picked this slim little book up not sure if it was an adult or children’s book. I started reading it and found myself none the wiser.

The book is the story of Winnie, only child of the privileged first family of their little village. Winnie is isolated from other children both by her family’s over-protectiveness and her position. Finding herself feeling lonely and restricted she makes a foray into the woods that are owned by her family and run behind her house. Here she finds a beautiful young man drinking from a steam which he then hides under pebbles. Approaching him, she finds he is one of the Tuck’s, a family of good, simple folk who drank from the stream a hundred years ago and then realised that it has made them immortal.

Winnie finds that they have kept this secret and live away from people, moving around to avoid suspicion. The Tucks treat immortality almost as a curse and believe that if knowledge of the stream becomes widespread, people will flock to become immortal thereby disrupting the order of the world. They also reflect that they have outlived everyone that they have loved and been treated with suspicion and fear. With this in mind they have to take any step necessary to keep the stream a secret.

The book is written in simple prose and was fairly quick to get through. I found the place and time of the book very hard to place until the end which gave it a rather fantastical quality – English countryside? Rural America? 1800’s? 1950’s?

Winnie’s character is likeable enough, gentle and impulsive, but brave, we view the story through her eyes. We learn very little about her life, her community or her background until perhaps nearer the end, with the author leaving us to work out what we can from hints and small details dropped into the story. In contrast the Tucks are drawn wonderfully. Kind, wise, sad Mr Tuck, practical, motherly Mrs Tuck and their two sons who travel the world and return every ten years to their parents: heartbroken Miles and the beautiful, adventurous Jesse who wants to experience every joy in life.

The story is an odd one. The book cover says international best-seller, yet I had never heard of it or its author before. The book isn’t what you might consider a typical award-winning novel – understated, ambiguous, a little mysterious and with a strange twist at the end.

By the time I had finished I still wasn’t clear if the book, with its simple language, but weighty subject matter and strange ending was for children and adults but Winnies final decision certainly made me think.

2 comments:

  1. I saw the movie and LOVED it!
    The book's cover is beutiful though!

    The ending was an amazing twist, I wasn't expecting it...SubhanAllah truly makes one think about the aging process...

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  2. I loved this book even as a child! I think it depends on the child, and their level of maturity. It is rather deep. It would be perfect for a mother daughter book club discussion.

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