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Lanny by Max Porter


NZ Booklovers second review for this wonderful book!


Lanny is a wonderful, wild, brave, exuberant, playful, frightening novel filled with love. I read it in one sitting and turned again to the front page. It is poetry and prose, myth and reality.


Lanny is an enchanting little boy who is different in his giftedness, his dazzlingly unexpected responses to his world, his chanting and singing, his collecting of bones and shells and fossils, the strangeness of his plans and projects. His father speaks of him ‘carrying his strange brain around.’ His mother describes him ‘clicking and murmuring like the peculiar transmitter-device he is’. Lanny makes friends with ‘Mad Pete’ a formerly famous artist who teaches him how to draw. And then he goes missing.


The novel is set in an English village, within commuting distance of London, which creates a sense of community but also an oppressive, almost sinister tone; there is the kindness and generosity juxtaposed with the criticism and suspicion of the gossips within the village. Similarly, there is the promise and life of the forest beyond but also the dark menace that emanates from it. There is also the presence of Toothwart, a mythic creature, recalling the crow from Porter’s Grief is a Thing with Feathers, both benevolent and menacing.


Porter uses an amalgamation of voices- almost as in a Greek chorus- to tell Lanny’s story. There is Lanny’s dad and his mum, the voices of those who live in the village, Pete and Dead Papa Toothwort. Kindly, critical, chatty, self-satisfied, loving; these voices create observations not only of the village and Lanny but which are universal.

This is a mesmerising, simply wonderful novel. I couldn’t recommend it more highly.


Reviewer: Paddy Richardson

Allen and Unwin, RRP $29.99

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