You know what’s hard to find? A book with a silver cover, that’s what. & I needed to find one, because that was the challenge for February in my 2015 Book Challenge. I opened the envelope on the 1st because I didn’t want to break any rules but I was skiing in Les Arcs at the time and so couldn’t really do much about it and as such I lost a full week and it was suddenly mid-February I was still without a silver book.
Or, that’s a lie.
I actually own 4 silver books: Atwood’s Oryx and Crake; Catch 22; The Catcher in the Rye; and one of the Louise Rennisen series. I don’t recall which. The problem is that none of those books are on my TBR. I have read them all. The letter states quite clearly that this book cannot be a re-read, which, well that’s fabulous EXCEPT finding another silver covered book did prove problematic. There are less of them about than you might think. I ended up wondering actually, how flexible the rules are because in the end I decided to go with reading my (beautiful shiny amazing) copy of the new Daniel Handler which is sort of bluey-grey, with (wait for it) LOTS OF SILVER FOIL EMBOSSING. That counts, right? Silver foil embossing on a sort of grey (which is a shade of silver) totally counts? If not, then it’s fine because I also glanced over The Philadelphia Cookbook, because cheese so if this book doesn't count then that one defo does.
Look see, you can just see the silver foiling under that nifty 1/2 sized cover. It's a really pretty book.
Anyway, let’s assume that the lovely Sarah is prepared to be a teeny bit flexible and that silver embossing counts, and talk about We Are Pirates.
Except, I kind of don't know what to say? I liked it, I did. I just didn’t love it as hard as I thought I was going to. I think that part of the problem is that I built it up so much in my head that it was likely always going to struggle to meet my expectations. In my head this book was The Greatest Thing. In reality, it wasn’t, quite, and I feel bad, because I feel like that’s all my fault – if only I’d just let this book be instead of waiting to be wowed with every turn of the page. Maybe then I’d have liked it more.
However, there is no denying that Handler is an excellent writer, and like Adverbs and the Lemony Snicket series, this book is full of that dark humour I’ve come to associate with his work. It’s a funny story, and it’s a dark story and it’s weirdly both simple and complicated and sometimes, I found myself frowning a little, because it just made no sense. I think that was kind of the point. It’s well paced and well thought out and actually remarkably clever: I think it’s probably going to be really popular, despite my occasional 'what even just happened!?'
So, what have we got? Well, the whole story is split between teenager Gwen – who I liked - and her dad, Phil – who I didn’t – with a relatively strong cast of supporting characters, some brilliantly unlikeable, and some just brilliant, but not a single one that didn’t provoke some kind of reaction. I mean, at times I was beyond irritated by some of these people, but that’s a mark of good writing, right? The ability to provoke a reaction like that.
The plot was ridiculous – in a nutshell a bored teenager decides to steal a boat with her BFF, an orderly from a nursing home, an old man with dementia and the brother of the boy she has a crush on so they can escape the humdrum of life and become pirates. So that’s what they do. Meanwhile Gwen’s Dad Phil is trying to make a name for himself in the world of radio, and being a weak-willed asshat for the most part. Like I said, it’s ridiculous, but to be fair I totally expected it to be and kind of loved it for that. So, the plot’s bonkers and pretty much every character drove me crackers at one point or another and you know what, I still enjoyed it. Obviously, you need to totally suspend any and all belief before starting this book, and you need to accept that Handler has a style of writing that takes a while to get into the swing of and you just need to let yourself go I think, and keep your eyes peeled for little gems like this:
We steal the happiness of others in order to be happy ourselves, and when it is stolen from us we voyage desperately to steal it back. We are pirates.
Because lines like that pop up when you least expect them and leave you all 'the guy can write, dammit.'
And the cover art is absolutely gorgeous. Seriously, so pretty.
I shall be back soon to talk about March's challenge. It's a good one!