The Wooden Sea by Jonathan Carroll
(UK editions: Victor Gollancz, £16.99, 247 pages, hardback, published 17 May 2001; ISBN 0-575-07060-9; paperback, £6.99, 296 pages, published May 2002; ISBN 0-575-07291-1. US edition: Tor, $23.95, 302 pages, hardback; February 15 2001.)
John Grant has already contributed such an excellent review of The Wooden Sea to the pages of infinity plus that this review stands, at best, as a ringing affirmation and, at least, idle gossip.
The Wooden Sea begins almost immediately 'odd', then flares through the weirdomagnetic spectrum into mouth-gaping, hands-flapping speechlessness. The genius of Jonathan Carroll is that his main characters remain sympathetic, likable and human throughout all this madness. Every character is grounded firmly in reality and is funny, indecisive, sad, angry, happy... and is, you feel, 'like me' on really quite a deep level, and that's something that doesn't come along very often.
The Wooden Sea reminded me at heart of Veronika Decides To Die by Paulo Coelho, which was raved about in some quarters a few months back; but that book wore its philosophical heart upon its sleeve too blatantly to truly engage with its readers and seemed too-manipulative an exercise by comparison.
I also remember reading an interview with Jonathan Carroll in a magazine last year and being put off by what seemed like his overt seriousness; he gave the impression that even if his books were that clever, they sounded too dry to be read for pleasure.
So, I was wrong. Again.
The Wooden Sea more than once made me stop reading and stare out of the window in wonder. If you get nothing else from a book this year then remember this line of confession and advice from the main character about life (page 233, UK edition):
Review by Stuart Carter.
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© Stuart Carter 28 July 2001