Thursday, December 16, 2010

Book Review: The Charlatan's Boy

The Charlatan's Boy: A Novel

I recently joined a website called Blogging For Books that sends you free books to review. This is a very awesome thing for me, since I love to read anything and everything I can, and I am pretty opinionated about most things. They sent me a free book, and all I have to do is review that book. It's a win-win!

The book I chose, The Charlatan's Boy, by Jonathan Rogers, caught my eye almost immediately. The author holds a PhD in seventeeth-century English literature, which immediately raised him in my esteem as both an intelligent man and a glutton for punishment.

The very word, charlatan, is so out of use as to be almost considered archaic, yet you won't find a better word to describe the profession described in detail in this book. (The word huckster comes close, but I feel that it lacks the elegance of charlatan.) Yet the use of such a word gave me pause; I really didn't want to read dry and dull words, however elevated they might be. I wanted to be entertained!

The charlatan in question here is named Floyd, and the narrator is Grady, who is also the title character. Grady and Floyd are together, but not family. In fact, Floyd makes a living off of exploiting Grady as a He-Feechie, a hideous creature of legend who lives in the swamps. As the story begins, the Feechie trade, as they call it, is dying out. Nobody believes in Feechies anymore, it seems. This presents a problem for Grady, because his whole life up to this point has been spent pretending to be a He-Feechie like Floyd taught him. The rest of the book follows with Grady trying to find his own identity apart from Floyd. If he can't find out where he came from, Grady aims to try and find a place to be, after one last big Feechie roundup.

The language used in the book is wonderfully evocative. It was easy to picture the events taking place on the page in my mind, especially the cattle drovers. The book seemed to start very slowly and appeared to be meandering about, trying to find a direction. The story did not completely grab my attention until the first set of cattle drovers arrived on the scene. While I wouldn't quite go so far as to agree with the claim that The Charlatan's Boy is "C.S. Lewis and Mark Twain rolled into one," I certainly did find similarities to Twain in the storytelling.

This would be a great book for a teenager who loves to read, but I also think that this would be an excellent book to read aloud. There's a lyrical flow to the language that seems to lend itself to being spoken; you can almost hear a voice in your head while you are reading. So this might be a book that could be read aloud to someone who perhaps has trouble reading or who cannot read because of vision issues.

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