Friday, 24 June 2011

Secrets of Carrick: Tantony

Secrets of Carrick: Tantony by Ananda Braxton-Smith (black dog books)
PB RRP $18.99
ISBN 978-174203166-8
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

In the note from the author, it states, ‘some of the words in this book are Manx, the talk of the people of the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea. …There are still only one hundred speakers of it in the world’. It is the language that makes this book stylistically unique. The poetic prose is mesmerising and brings into focus significant and relevant themes of identity, loss and grief, making your way in life regardless of what or how others see you as, and finding your way back from dark places.

Boson and Fermion are twins. Nothing and no one could save Boson from the choices he made which brought about his slow death. He could see dead spirits and sought answers which he found by fasting, and communing with nature, mainly with birds in the skybog, for he believed he was one of them. In the community of medieval island of Carrick, there is no tolerance for anyone different, not even their own children. Those unfortunate enough to be born with a physical disability are seen as monsters, ostracized to the opposite island to fend for themselves. They are known as the lost things.

Boson’s death breaks his family. Fermion is left to prepare his burial, attend to the chores and the care of her baby brother. Her comatose mother with her father cradling his jug, have no life left in them. Fermion cannot cope and decides to set out with her dog for the opposite island in search of the lost things. There she believes she will be given answers to why her brother was the way he was. She is frightened and inexperienced, but the voice in her head keeps her going despite her fears.

The difficult and dangerous journey shows her how strong she really is. Her experiences with the lost things on the island change her completely for there are lessons to be learned and a great deal of moving away from the dark places of grief and loss. She discovers more than she bargained for on that far away island, and returns to her parents filled with a wonder and thirst for life that she never dared hope to find again.

The story is full of magical realism, myth and folklore. Having not read  Merrow, the author’s first book, and a CBCA Notable award-winner, I was not prepared for the beauty and scope of this mystical novel.  There is a glossary of Manx words used, and a clarifying Note on Tantony for the reader’s benefit. Prepare to be impressed! This book is suitable for  the 12+ age group. 

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