Saturday, 1 January 2011

Review: Now I Know by Aidan Chambers

Now I Know Dear blog,
So.  First post of 2011.  Feels like I haven't written an actual review in ages.

Summary (from Goodreads): Now I Know is all at once a compelling meditation on faith and religion—and the difference between the two—and an intense love story.
When a body is found hanging from a crane in a scrapyard, Tom sets out to investigate this strange case. Nik embarks on a research mission for a film about a contemporary life of Jesus. Then there’s Julie, a girl bandaged from head to toe and laid up in a hospital bed.
These three simultaneous plots— presented through a combination of letters, prose, poetry, jotted notes, flashbacks, and puzzles—are woven together into a provocative novel of mystery and self-discovery.
Like the other books in The Dance Sequence, Now I Know can be read alone or as part of the series.

Review: Following reading Postcards from No Man's Land a few months ago I've been quite the fan of Aidan Chambers.   Postcards  didn't quite live up to my expectations, but I was still intrigued enough to want to read the rest of the six-book Dance sequence, even though I wasn't quite sure what to expect from the rest of the series.  Well, Now I Know has restored my faith- no pun intended in relation to the subject of the book- in the Dance novels.

It's a strange little book in this respect; it's not actually narrated in any sort of chronological order.  It's a slightly confusing mix of letters, journal entries, transcripts and thoughts (not really unlike a Jaclyn Moriarty novel, I suppose). One part of the story seemed to be moving forward, while the other was kind of moving backwards with the same events...if that makes any sense.  Which I'm pretty sure it doesn't (but please give me a break. It's New Year's Day).  Anyway, by the time I'd worked this out, it occurred to me that it obviously wasn't that confusing, or else it wouldn't have taken so long for me to finally click which order the events of the novel were running in.  It didn't interrupt the flow of the story- nay, it was the flow of the story, and it worked well. 

Now I Know is very much a character-based book, for it has three central narrators: Nik, Julie and Tom.  In that order. I'll start with Tom first, seeing as there wasn't an awful lot to say about him.  Maybe  by calling him a central narrator I'm lying slightly, seeing as he can't have had more than forty-odd pages of the two hundred or so in the book, and for that he was probably the most disappointing thing about the book. He played a significant role, I'm sure, but perhaps if Aidan Chambers had spent a little more time writing from his perspective then I would have found him  a more likeable character.  Well, that's not to say that I disliked him.  Because he was so much of a two-dimensional character, I had no strong opinion on him.

Nik.  Now then.  At the start of the book, I actually kind of detested him and his general outlook on life.  Despite the fact that he seemed to play himself as the victim, he was actually one of those irritating people who looks down on Christians and other such forms of organised religion.  I don't see why he protested so much at playing Jesus in the film he was helping to make when, as the director of the film said, he acted like he was the son of God anyway; almost too clever and cynical, I suppose, for his own obnoxious good.  However, his encounters with Julie lead him to change into a much better person in many aspects of the phrase, until he was totally changed. He was open-minded, suddenly,  intelligent in as non-snarky a way as possible, and a pretty fascinating character to follow along on his spiritual journey (in the afterword of the edition I read, Aidan Chambers says that thought that Nik's name should be, well, Nik because the title was Now I Know. See?)

Nik had Julie to thank for all of this.  She was probably my favourite character in the book.  And what's not to like about her? She always had some sort of response to Nik's bitter put-downs of Christianity.  I felt kind of torn when I was reading her rambling monologues in the form of recorded letters to Nik, when she was talking about belief and Christianity.  Did I really buy into it or not?  Was I entirely persuaded to believe that there might be such a thing as a God, masculine or feminine (read the book and you'll get it)? Hmm.  It gave me a lot to contemplate, much like Nik I suppose.   She had many faces; one minute she was all serious and intense, wondering deeply into the human heart, and then the next she was lively, witty and utterly charming.

With the narrative told the way it was, it's hard to say where the climax of the story was; in terms of events, probably within the first hundred pages, but in terms of plot, and the way it all fitted together, it was conventionally towards the end (I hope that made sense). Which I loved.  The way everything fell into place, and the way that Nik and Tom's stories collided at the end was perfect in a "ta-da!" kind of way. It was hugely satisfying. 

So, in conclusion: Now I Know was everything that I wanted Postcards from No Man's Land to be, and it was no disappointment. And now I'm off to finish The Grapes of Wrath and South of the Border, West of the Sun so I can start on the next book in the Dance sequence, The Toll Bridge.
In three words: provocative, fascinating, deep.
Recommended for: teenagers who want answers.
Rating: 4.5. It would have been 5, had Tom been more well-rounded, probably.

1 comment:

  1. Cool! This is definitely on my to-read list. Thanks for the review. Just asking, is this considered YA?


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