Published: October 2010, Random House
Pages: 208 pages, paperback
Acquired: Sent for review by Random House
Summary (from back cover of ARC): ‘Eight-year-old Noah’s problems seem easier to deal with if he doesn’t think about them. So he runs away, taking an untrodden path through the forest. Before long he comes across a shop; it’s a toyshop, full of the most amazing toys, and brimming with the most wonderful magic. And here Noah meets a very unusual old man. The old man takes Noah on a journey. A journey that will change his life. And it could change yours too.’
My review: So we all know I’m prone to shedding a few tears now and then. In fact, I’m starting to think Random House actually hate me, which is why they keep releasing books that make me cry buckets. We had Trash, we had Half Brother, Boys Don’t Cry (boys may not but Carly certainly does cry) and Tall Story – to name a very small selection. Well, Noah Barleywater really takes the biscuit when it comes to reducing me to a blubbering wreck. I finished this book in the bath, surrounding by bubbles, weeping for all I was worth. In fact, I was wailing to the extent that my boyfriend and puppy had to comfort me while I sat covered in tears and bubbles. And snot. Still in the bath.
I think Noah Barleywater Runs Away is a book best enjoyed if you go in blind, like I did. I’d heard a couple of people raving about it but I didn’t know any of the details. I think that’s best. This book is such a delicious treat that you should experience it for yourself so I’m not going to give away any of the specifics.
Noah runs away from home early one morning to escape the problems in his life and the story we read is of his adventures and the people he meets on his journey. Enter a talking Dachshund, a very hungry donkey, an overemotional apple tree and a magical toy shop. To be honest, that’s all you need to know.
You may (or may not) know that John Boyne is the writer of the utterly brilliant The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. Well, as much as I love that story, I honestly think Noah Barleywater trumps it. Absolutely everything I want from a book is included in this novel – we have genuinely funny instances, fantastic writing, characters I will never forget and some of the most heartbreaking moments I’ve ever read in a book. Perfect.
Boyne is a world class writer and, to highlight that fact, I want to share a few (spoiler free) quotations from Noah Barleywater just to convince you that this is one book you have to read this year:
* “‘...I like “a” very much, but I’ve never been much of a one for “toy shop”. I’ve always quite liked the word “resilient” myself. An ability to weather trouble without succumbing. I feel that’s a word you might think about a little, young man.’
‘I like “fresh fruit flan”,’ said the donkey. ‘Three excellent words.’”
* “‘And my rifle,’ snarled the King, his eyebrows bouncing up and down furiously. ‘There’s a new stag in the park. Magnificent creature. Thing of extraordinary beauty. I want to shoot it.’”
* “‘Ah, the cricket,’ said the old man in delight. ‘A fine fellow whom I mistreated badly.’
‘Really?’ asked Noah. ‘What did you do to him?’
‘I smashed him against the wall with a wooden hammer and killed him.’
Noah’s mouth opened wide in horror. ‘Why?’ he asked. ‘Why would you do such a thing?’
‘He accused me of having a wooden head. I may have’ – the old man glanced around and looked a little ashamed of himself – ‘I may have over-reacted slightly...’”
First line: ‘Noah Barleywater left home in the early morning, before the sun rose, before the dogs woke, before the dew stopped falling on the fields.’
Final thoughts: You will laugh, you will cry and you will want to hug everybody you love by the time you reach the end. That’s a promise.
Total: 19/20 (A+)