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Updated: November 17, 2010 20:09 IST

Too long a letter

JANANI GANESAN
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Stolen by Lucy Christopher.
Stolen by Lucy Christopher.

A book that needs time to take off and engage the reader.

It is a story with a simple plot, written in letter format. Gemma, a 16-year-old is stolen by Ty, a man in his early twenties, to an uninhabited desert in Australia. Her struggle to escape and to understand why she has been taken away forms the crux of the plot.

The author, Lucy Christopher, succeeds in capturing the story in a one-word title – Stolen. Ty does not kidnap Gemma but steals her. Kidnappers hold their victims to ransom, and are willing to exchange the victims for something in return. One who steals has no such intentions; he seeks to transfer possession. Ty intends to keep Gemma with him in an uninhabited land and this is their story, told by Gemma through a letter to Ty.

Narrative fails

The author does justice to the title, but merely partial justice to the narration. Accepted that a letter is supposed to be written in a conversational style, but letters are hardly ever more than a page long. This book spans 300-odd pages! It makes one impatient and irritable at times, to sit through a series of short sentences - feels like a drive through a bumpy road with the brakes being applied every few minutes; the story takes its own time to move. This spurt of short sentences kills the flow of the plot. Granted that fear is conveyed best in brevity. But the power of brief sentences lies in strategic and minimalistic usage.

Desertscape

Fortunately for those readers who decide to sit through the whole book because they can never put down a book incomplete, the story picks up pace as it goes. Slowly the descriptions of the desert landscape engulf and transport the reader to the mysterious world of howling winds. The prize awaiting the reader for opting to read the whole book is some of the intense descriptions of the desert that appear halfway through the book. The author makes us feel the silence of the desert through sketches like “orange streaks began to thread into the blue of the sky” or “it seemed as though there were flecks of sand in them (Ty's eyes), grains flung there from the wind”.

These word images created by the author not only show her language skills, which surface occasionally, but also the research she has put into understanding a desert landscape.

The author succeeds in making the reader experience the mysterious beauty of the desert and it (the desert) indeed “slithers around (one) like a snake.” To describe this experience of being absorbed by the desert in the author's own words, the deserts are “spiritual, beautiful and inspirational” and in spite of the initial phase of poor writing, the author has to be acknowledged for making the reader experience this.

This treasure of descriptions awaits one who can endure the author's warm-up sessions in her debut publication – the first 100 pages of the book.

Title: STOLEN

Author: Lucy Christopher

Publisher: Scholastic

Price: 295

Janani is a student of Asian College of Journalism

Keywords: book review

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