24/09/2007

A Place Called Here (by Cecelia Ahern)

I wasn't totally impressed with the first - and best-known - novel by Cecelia Ahern (PS I love you), but thought it well-enough written that when I saw other books she had written in second-hand or charity shops, I was happy to buy them.

I read 'A Place Called Here' on a couple of flights, and overnight in an airport. It was the ideal kind of book for that situation: light enough that it didn't require deep thought, interesting enough to keep me turning pages, yet not so gripping that I couldn't put it down when I needed to sleep.

The story is about Sandy Shortt, who is something of a misfit. She is extremely tall, for one thing, in sharp contrast to her surname. She is also very logical and organised, and has a compulsion to search for missing things - and people. It all started when her neighbour Jenny-May vanishes when they are both ten years old.

By the time the story starts, Sandy runs a missing persons agency. She has reunited various lost family members, but there are still several unsolved cases which she has studied extensively.

Then Sandy herself disappears, and finds herself in a different world: one filled with people and objects that have mysteriously gone missing from the real world.

It's bizarre and surreal... and yet somehow the story works. In this strange other world there are socks, phones, wallets, even sofas... all of which have vanished without trace. There are also some of the people whose cases Sandy was working on. They have settled down, sometimes even married and had children, accepting their new lives after they've been there for a while.

The writing is very good; the story delightful, and unexpectedly moving in places. It's also strangely believable - it doesn't feel like fantasy at all. In some ways it's a bit like another of Ahern's novels, 'If you could see me now'. Recommended, though it appears to be out of print in the USA.

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