Lanny by Max Porter
There’s a village sixty miles outside London. It’s no different from many other villages in England: one pub, one church, red-brick cottages, council cottages and a few bigger houses dotted about. Voices rise up, as they might do anywhere, speaking of loving and needing and working and dying and walking the dogs.
This village belongs to the people who live in it and to the people who lived in it hundreds of years ago. It belongs to England’s mysterious past and its confounding present. But it also belongs to Dead Papa Toothwort, a figure schoolchildren used to draw green and leafy, choked by tendrils growing out of his mouth.
Dead Papa Toothwort is awake. He is listening to this twenty-first-century village, to his English symphony. He is listening, intently, for a mischievous, enchanting boy whose parents have recently made the village their home. Lanny.
Dead Papa Toothwort wakes from is standing nap an acre wide and scrapes off dream dregs of bitumen glistening thick with liquid globs of litter.
I will start off by saying that I thought the Lanny was fantastic. This is one of those novels that when I wasn’t read it, I was thinking about it. The story and the characters really got under my skin. That said, as you may well see from the first line, there are sections of the novel that were confusing and I had to really think about. Some of the magical realism elements went over my head at times and I had to reread certain passages. Every once in awhile I appreciate a novel that is more difficult to read, if the payoff is worth it. I would say that was the case with Lanny. The story is told in such a unique way that I think it is best to read a sample on Kindle or a preview on Goodreads before committing to it. This will not be a book for everyone!
If you are like me and enjoy novels that are sinister and dark, and are told in an original format- Lanny is definitely the book for you.
I think that this book has some important things to say about life, communities, grief, parenthood, etc., and does so in a way that is wholly original and thought-provoking. The novel is separated in to three parts, and while I loved all three, the second part is truly brilliant. It shines a light on how different people act during a time of crisis- definitely an interesting, truthful, and often disheartening look at human nature.
What truly shines in Lanny are the characters. The friendship between Lanny, who is a child, and Pete, a old man who was once a famous artist, is delightful! It was amazing to see what they were able to learn from one another. I also appreciated the perspectives of both of Lanny’s parents. Like real parents, they are far from perfect and find themselves wondering what life would be like without Lanny. I myself am not a parent, but I imagine that many people have had such thoughts about their own children.
Lanny has such a sense of place. It is one of the most atmospheric novels that I have read in a long time- the village truly comes to life.
Yes, for the right reader! I think everyone should read a sample and see if they connect with the prose and the format. I also realize that magical realism can be hit or miss for some people! Overall, I thought that Lanny was brilliant and I appreciated what it said about society and human nature. I will definitely being reading Max Porter’s debut novel, Grief is a Thing with Feathers.
Lanny is out now! Thank you to Penguin Canada for sending me a finished copy in exchange for an honest review.