… but in a nice way.
This post is part of a month-long series of pre-dated posts running while I am on holiday. Feel free to comment, I’ll get back to you when I return!
Please note that any “reviews” I write here are simply my own opinion and that I am not doing any objective, informative reviews for this challenge. If there are any spoilers in a post, I will indicate it at the top.
I draw the book covers straight from Goodreads and you can click on the images to go to the book’s page on there.
I have cried over several books. The ending of Lord of the Rings leaves me in tears every time, even though I can basically quote it by now. I’m generally not someone who cries over stories, but I have cried over several books, especially at the painful deaths of beloved characters (Harry Potter, I’m looking at you). Also, I am a sucker for a character who sacrifices him or herself in favour of his or her friends.
However, I am only going to mention one book now: Airman, by Eoin Colfer. I consider this to be one of the saddest books that I own, sadder even that those set in the terrible conditions of war, or Dystopian novels. Maybe this is because Airman is not a fantasy or a Dystopian novel, but a historical one. Even though there is fantasy inside the historical facts, the dark setting and the absence of light or hope, both of which are so common as symbols in other fantasy novels, makes this one of the saddest books I have ever read. As for Dystopian novels, I do not really find them sad, exactly because they are hypothetical in nature.
Airman… right. This book was written by Eoin Colfer, who is more well-known for his Artemis Fowl series of books. It is set in Ireland, in the late days of Queen Victoria’s reign – at the end of the nineteenth century. The race for flight is on. From a modern perspective, we all of course know that the Wright-brothers won this race, but this does not prevent Colfer from inventing a pair of fictional characters to participate in this race… and maybe even win it. Who knows, when all parties concerned where so close to inventing the aeroplane, who was actually the first?
The story follows the life of Conor Broekhart, who had a connection to the sky from the moment he was born – literally. By the time he was nine, he proved his talent for invention and displayed his dream of the sky. By the time he was fourteen, he was cruelly betrayed and forsaken by friends, family and kingdom and thrown into the bleakest, dankest hole they could find. But Conor would fly. Not even the stones over his head would be able to hold this young man down.
For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.
- Leonardo Da Vinci
Let us face it: it sounds inspiring and uplifting when summarised like above. But this book is bleak, shorn of the usual adornment, though it is extremely powerful. Colfer’s characteristic style is as visible in this book as in his more popular ones. My lecturers are always telling me that I am supposed to be able to recognise Dickens’s or Lawrence’s style at a mile away, but I’m still not seeing it. However, I can certainly recognise Eoin Colfer’s style at a mile away. It is dense and fast: he does not waste words. It is not only the flying in this book that leaves me breathless – I’ve thought he was an amazing writer ever since I first read his work.
I love Airman, even though it makes me so sad. I experience the betrayal scene as so powerful and so painful that I often skip this chapter when I reread this book. I’ve reread it several times. However, I am still not quite sure what the redeeming quality of Airman is, for it is generally well-thought of, as can be seen by its exceptionally high average rating on Goodreads. I have not seen many books on there receive 4 out of 5 average rating: most settle for about 3 point something. Usually one would have thought that a book as depressing as this would receive bad ratings. Is it in the ultimately inspiring nature? Is it in the attraction that bleakness and hopelessness have to many readers (including myself)? Is it in the historical details about the race for flight? Or even the dream of flight?
I confess that I do not know. I love historical novels. I have an unhealthy attraction for depressing books. I love how Colfer includes and plays with the history of flight. I love Airman to bits, even though it makes me cry.
Other men look up and down, left and right; but men like us are different. We are visionaries.
- Linus Wynter
Conor Broekhart is Airman.
Tomorrow I’ll post about a book I think is underrated.