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Blue Window Hardcover – April 3, 2018
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"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Pre-order today
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From School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—In this harrowing fantasy, 13-year-old twins Susan and Max, along with their three younger sisters, fall through their inexplicably-turned-blue living room window, landing in a strange world where people have hazy features that fluctuate between human and sharp-toothed animals. The cruel ruler is awed by the siblings' unusually smooth faces and sends them to a lab for experimentation, a terrifying fate that involves cutting. Susan summons a previously unknown magical strength, allowing them to escape. Pursued by animal and human monsters, they eventually find sanctuary in a hidden city where Max is taken for special training because he is male. Although the people look normal and they are safe, the cultish atmosphere makes the sisters uncomfortable, even as they develop some extraordinary new powers. An epic battle occurs before order is restored and the children return home. Characterization comes gradually as the book is presented from the points of view of each sibling from oldest to youngest. Chapters are interspersed with the perspective of a mysterious person called "the exile" who hints of a prophesy involving five special beings and plays an important role at the end of the book. Although the plot device invites comparisons to C.S. Lewis, this tale is much more sinister and lacks the joy and sense of wonder of the "Narnia" series. There are some fanciful scenes, but the overall mood is tense and frightening. VERDICT Themes of human experimentation and animalistic behavior are best left to more mature readers, in spite of the young ages of the protagonists. An additional purchase.—Martha Simpson, Stratford Library Association, CT
Gewirtz offers an appealingly old-fashioned story peppered with unsettling moments of brutality and violence, all in an eerie, artful tone...readers hungry for fantasy with a classic tone—complete with tried-and-true tropes, such as prophesies, chosen ones, and vaguely allegorical world building—will likely find plenty to satisfy that craving here.
Top customer reviews
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I loved the author’s Zebra Forest, so even though I seldom read fantasy, I purchased Blue Window.
Like Zebra Forest, Gewirtz’s words flow in a lyrical, poetic fashion. Also like Zebra Forest, the characters are realistic, three-dimensional people with weaknesses as well as strengths. Gewirtz clearly knows children and is a master at showing the world through their eyes.
Blue Window, however, is much darker than Zebra Forest. The five siblings are literally fighting for their lives. I read the book in two days. When I finished it, my final thought was “Wow.”
Blue Window is one of those stories that haunts you weeks after finishing. The book is divided into five sections, each told from a different child’s point of view, from the 13-year-old twins to the youngest girl. That the final battle is told through the youngest’s – and, presumably, weakest – child increases the tension.
Teachers and parents will find much to discuss here. This is a world where evil and good aren’t clearly distinguished, a world where characters not only battle each other but must fight for their very humanity. Extreme chauvinism comes into play; in this world, females are dismissed as weak in both body and mind.
Unlike Zebra Forest – which appeals to all ages and will withstand the test of time – Blue Window is not for everyone. If you enjoy beautiful writing, dark settings and twisty plots, you will enjoy this book.
The world of Ganbihar, as it’s called, is without question dark and suffocating. But the children -- the 13-year-old twins Susan and Max, 11-year-old Nell, and their younger sisters Kate and Jean -- are the incandescent presence that illuminate the novel’s pages and relieve the bleakness. Powerless, disoriented and terrified at the outset, the five marshal every ounce of intelligence, perspicacity, humor, and tenacity they can muster to unravel the horrific secrets of the Domain of the Genius. Masterfully drawn by Gewirtz, the five children light up a frightening world, narrating by turns their journey to the truth. Interspersed with their narratives are passages by an unidentified figure who emerges in the end as a critical player in the story. I found the lyricism of that additional voice mesmerizing. Those passages cast a dreamlike spell over the entire book, raising it far above the level of ordinary children’s fantasy.
An adult reader cannot help but be struck by the topicality of this book, with its chilling portrait of a society that has fallen prey to the power of irrationality and animalism. While the political relevance of the book may escape younger readers, its universal message of the power of rationality and cooperation will speak to them. Blue Window is an exceptional literary creation that speaks to our times even as it transcends them. Highly recommended.
In a way, I wasn't wrong. The book is about five siblings on the longest night of the year. They fall through a window into an alternate dimension where scary in the normal and everything is kind of like an illusion, but no one can see the truth at first.
The book strikes me as juvenile fiction and I like it. I probably would have LOVED this book when I was 12. The way the characters encounter their personal struggles and discover their strengths. It's something that's hard to accomplish in younger age books.
At 30, I still enjoyed it quite a bit. The adventure felt pretty original and the characters' voices were great. I especially enjoyed the last third of the book. The epic fight between legit scholars and a man who claimed himself "Genius".
There were times the book dragged, but they were thankfully far and few between the sequences of action. Enjoyed it and would recommend to school age kids.