This intriguing and haunting novel deserves to be better known. I’ve now read it four times and still consider it one of my favourites.
The story is at first narrated by a scientist, on the verge of retirement, when his colleague, Christopher, vanishes. He then finds a manuscript written by Christopher, which forms the rest of the novel. Set in the artist community of Bath, in England, the story focuses on what happens to Christopher as a schoolboy. His father’s girlfriend, a dancer called Poppea, disappears. Then his father, Robert, disappears. A family acquaintance and creator of microscopic sculptures, Mr Eckmann, has something to do with it.
My fascination with miniature things is one reason I like this book. Another reason is the careful narration, which examines adult relationships from a child’s perspective, with an adult’s hindsight. The novel is character-driven; the characters are all interesting, especially the bitter and talented Mr Eckmann, who has been taunted all of his life because of his short stature. He could too easily become a stock evil character but he tries to redeem himself and is treated with sensitivity. The themes in this YA novel are mature, not as in ‘adult content’ but in the way they occupy one’s thoughts. The story manages to be both very small and on a grand scale simultaneously. That’s all I wish to say about it, but if you decide to try this book, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.
First published in 2003.