A good friend sent me this book. I've read it twice now.
There's a short poem at the beginning of the book, that gives some clue that it's going to involve threat and risk:
The sense of danger must not disappear:
The way is certainly both short and steep,
However gradual it looks from here;
Look if you like, but you will have to leap.
The story is about a clockwork mouse and his child, who after a while are thrown away. The rubbish dump where they find themselves is a very dark place where criminal rats rule. The most criminal of all is Manny Rat, and he uses old wind-ups like the mouse and his child, as slaves to do his fetching and carrying. Any complaint and they get smashed up.
The mouse and his child manage to escape from Manny Rat. The story is very grim right from the start; the first chink of light comes when a dishonest fortune-telling Frog unwittingly pronounces his first-ever inspired prophecy:
“Low in the dark of summer, high in the winter light; a painful spring, a shattering fall, a scattering regathered. The enemy you flee at the beginning awaits you at the end.”
The mouse and his child are persued by Manny Rat through an amazing series of gruesome adventures. They are reliant on others to wind them up, but, as the mouse child says to his father, “Maybe we shan’t always be helpless, Papa. . . Maybe we’ll be self-winding someday.”
They meet a series of bizarre characters who seem more keen to use them than to help them achieve their dream. It all seems impossible, hopeless. And yet...
I love this book. There were times when I wondered, because it is so harrowing, "is this really for children?" But it seems to have so many levels, so many thoughts in it, to be a story so beautifully told that I think it's well worth a try.
As one reviewer on amazon says:
"I had this book as a child and read it several times - and still remember it very well many years later. The thing that really stayed with me was that it was a sad and moving story and was very different to all the "cheesy happy ending" type stories. it made me realise that not everything in the world was wonderful (especially if you are a clockwork mouse!)"