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The Ghosts of Heaven: shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2016 (English Edition) Formato Kindle
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It reminded me of David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas. Tales of witchcraft, the mentally insane, a cave girl from the beginnings of time to the futuristic account of a lonely spaceman aboard a ship seeking a new homeland. Imaginatively thought and creatively told. The Ghosts of Heaven is also an intelligent novel; it makes you think more than first realise and it will force you to carry on reading to discover the meaning of this never-ending spiral and why it means something to each of the quarter's protagonists.
My particular favourite quarters were the second one which follows the story of young Anna who is struggling to cope with the death of her mother and look after her brother who is suffering from an as yet undiscovered ailment. It was richly told and instantly took me back to my love of Arthur Miller's The Crucible.
I also fell in love with the third quarter, which is dark and captivating with its setting being a mental institution. And yet, even after closing the book, I'm left with an unnerving respect for the almost surreal writing of quarter four where everything (in my opinion) links together.
I have admired Marcus Sedgwick for many years now, and I must say that The Ghosts of Heaven is his most ambitious novel to date. Not as popular as he should be, Sedgwick manages to hit all the right spots no matter what type of book he writes.
The first part of The Ghosts of Heaven follows a young woman during prehistoric times. It’s almost time for a hunt, so she goes with the oldest man in her tribe and a young boy to make the magic that will feed her people. I loved that this quarter was written in verse! The narrative is simple which really fit the time and setting. Few words are used, but their meaning gets across just fine, much like how the girl and her people communicate. This is also where we’re introduced to the shape that connects all of the stories: a helix. The girl notices it all around her and ponders on what it means.
The Ghosts of Heaven‘s second story is about Anna, a young girl living in England during the witch hunts. Her mother has just died, so she’s left to care for her sick brother on her own. But there’s a new priest in town and he’s hell bent on ridding this village of evil. Of course, Anna must get caught in the middle of it after she starts noticing the spirals around her. This part took me longer to get into. In the beginning it jumps around a bit between various characters to set the stage. But once things finally got going and all of the little events started adding up, I was hooked! I still cannot believe how twisted people can be, even supposed men of God.
Set in the late 1920s, the third quarter of The Ghosts of Heaven is narrated by Dr. James as he starts his new position as assistant administrator at a mental institution. There he meets a man named Charles who lives on the lowest level with the most extreme cases, although the man seems quite lucid and “normal.” This piques the doctor’s interest and he beings spending more time with Charles, eventually learning about…spirals! I was expecting this part to have a darker, creepy vibe based on its setting and the fact that James is being haunted by his dead wife, but for the most part it’s just kind of boring. I didn’t really connect with the characters at all, and found the spiral thing a bit forced.
The final quarter of The Ghosts of Heaven was the story I was most anticipating. It’s set sometime in the future, Earth is beyond overpopulated, so humans are moving to another planet. The first voyage is on its way with 500 passengers in “longsleep” along with 10 sentinels to make sure everything goes smoothly. We’re introduced to Keir Bowman, sentinel #6 and the strange occurrences he witnesses during the 12 hours he’s allowed to be awake. This part seriously blew my mind. It is awesome and twisty and WTF. And like I said, that last chapter is magic. I reread it immediately and it was still magic. Seriously.
The Ghosts of Heaven was pretty darn fantastic. It’s nearly perfect except for my slight boredom in the third quarter. This is seriously one unique and mind-blowing novel. It’s YA that doesn’t feel like YA, but it’s also not stuffy like Literary Fiction, but it’s certainly something more.
*Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher through NetGalley for review. No compensation was offered or accepted.
In a time before modern history, a girl tries to use a charred stick and ochre to make magic with disastrous results. Staring at the spiral shapes found everywhere in nature, she begins to grasp the enormity--the power--that can be found in written marks.
Centuries later, Anna hopes to care for her brother after her mother's death only to have the entire town turn against her. As she fights rumors and increasingly vocal accusations that she is a witch, Anna too begins to see hidden meaning in the spiral found in their traditional spiral dance that begins to appear everywhere.
In the twentieth century an American poet watches the ocean from within the walls of an inhospitable asylum. He can see the shapes there too. Spirals. Helixes. Shapes that have become emblematic of the horrors he can scarcely fathom.
Keir Bowman knows, in the distant future, that he will become an astronaut on a desperate mission to colonize a new planet. He knows he will keep looking forward. What Bowman can't guess is that in hurtling himself through space, he will also move toward his destiny and an understanding of these spirals that march through history in The Ghosts of Heaven (2015) by Marcus Sedgwick.
The Ghosts of Heaven is a standalone novel in the same style as Sedgwick's Printz Award winner Midwinterblood.
After an introduction from the author, The Ghosts of Heaven includes four short stories titled "Whispers in the Dark," "The Witch in the Water," "The Easiest Room in Hell," and "The Song of Destiny." As the introduction explains, these stories can be read in any order. (I read them in the order given in the book which is also the order listed above.)
The Ghosts of Heaven is an incredibly smart and ambitious novel. The stories here span a variety of genres and forms as they work together to convey a larger meaning.
"Whispers in the Dark" is told in sparse verse form as a girl begins to make sense of written words and forms.
"The Witch in the Water" returns to more traditional prose as the story watches the hysteria and fear that fed the fires of witch accusations and trials in the seventeenth century. This segment also highlights how much of the novel deals with unequal power dynamics--in this case as Anna tries to work around much unwanted attention.
"The Easiest Room in Hell" brings readers to an asylum on Long Island where supposedly revolutionary treatments highlight the arcane and unfeeling nature of much mental health care in the early twentieth century. This story also underscores the fine line that can exist between creativity and madness.
Finally in "The Song of Destiny" Sedgwick brings the golden ratio (and the Fibonacci sequence) to the forefront in this solitary and meditative story as all of the vignettes come together in a conclusion with surprising revelations about the spirals and their ultimate meaning.
Sedgwick weaves subtle references between each quarter to make sure that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts as readers--along with the characters--move toward a larger understanding over the course of the entire novel.
The Ghosts of Heaven is a startling, clever and life-affirming novel that pushes the written word to its limit as Sedgwick expertly demonstrates the many ways in which a story can be told.
Possible Pairings: Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson, All the Truth That's in Me by Julie Berry, Plain Kate by Erin Bow, Wildthorn by Jane Eagland, The Curiosities by Tessa Gratton, Maggie Stiefvater and Brenna Yovanoff; The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe, Folly by Marthe Jocelyn, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix, Across the Universe by Beth Revis, In the Shadow of Blackbirds of Cat Winters
*A copy of this book was acquired for review consideration from the publisher*
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