At the very end of January, I wrote about this book
In that post, I mentioned that Mercurie
challenged me to read one book of fiction per month in 2008 because he thinks we just don't read for pleasure enough anymore.
"So I thought I'd ease into the year-long challenge with a skinny little novel I've been meaning to read for a few years now, but then my plan changed," I wrote, then.
Indeed it did. I ended up reading Hugh Laurie's The Gun Seller
and I loved it.
And then my plan changed again. I started reading Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal
. My co-worker Rich received a copy for his birthday last year and when he told me about it, I had to buy a copy for myself, as it is the best-titled book in this history of the written word.
I supped on Lamb
with relish in those early days of February, but, as is often the case with me, the bookmark got stuck up near the front of the book. For some reason, Lamb
just languished on my bedside table.
And yesterday, as the clocked ticked down the final hours of February, even though I had an extra day in the month, I was all too aware that I hadn't met the February leg of Mercurie's 2008 challenge.
How pathetic. Only the second month and I'd already faltered?
So I tried reading last night, but quickly fell asleep.
And I awoke in March, a challenge failure.
But then I decided to give myself a one-day grace period (who's going to stop me, right?) and this morning, I picked up the "skinny little novel I've been meaning to read for a few years now" and read it.
In about an hour.
I first heard about Pobby and Dingan
when I edited the books section of Coverstory
, an entertainment publication you've probably never heard of and which ceased to be in 2000 when Thomson, the global corporation, decided to divest itself of Thomson Newspapers, and our Little Company That Could – And Did, Thank You Very Much – went out of business.
Becky May was the reviewer who told me about Pobby and Dingan
. She'd loved it. And I made a mental note to pick up a copy.
And I did. In 2005.
And I started it a couple times, got a few pages in each time, but, well, damn those sticky bookmarks.
But this morning, needing to redeem my lapsed book-reading self, I read it, propped up in bed on all my pillows.
It's only 94 pages, so some might call it a novella, but it says "A Novel" right there on the cover, so a novel it is.
The author, Ben Rice, reminds me quite a bit of Colin Firth. His "About the Author" entry is very short: "Ben Rice lives in London. This is his first book."
From what I can ascertain from Amazon.com, there has not been a second.
It's a very sweet little book. I'm sure Mr. Rice is sick of having his novel described as "a very sweet little book," because I suspect a lot of people refer to it as "a very sweet little book," but it is.
Set in Australia, the story focuses on the Williamson family. Dad is an opal miner. Mom is wistful for her life back in England. Ashmol is the smart-aleck older brother. And Kellyanne is his little sister, who, at the beginning of the book, enters her brother's room and says, "Ashmol, Pobby and Dingan are maybe-dead."
To which he replies, "Good ... Perhaps you'll grow up now and stop being such a fruit loop."
But Kellyanne is very concerned about her friends. They're imaginary, but she's concerned nonetheless.
And over the next 93 pages, Rice tells a very sweet little story that sets you to thinking about what's real in life and what's imaginary, what's important and what's not.