Tuesday, January 25, 2022

On The Jellicoe Road: Book Review

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Characters in a book are not born in a mother’s womb.
Their inception is almost unfounded tangibly, as they are thickened into existence due to a single spark of an idea and gradually unfold into being. Existing.
Characters may have a physical entity within your memory, but they will affect you with their own thoughts and personalities more often than not.
Movie characters have a fixed persona and strong impressions. Even so, the actors embody them and become theirs. The actor’s personality sullies them and what they put into it. Nowhere else can you fall in love with non-tangible, actually non-existent in this plane of world, just by reading about them and knowing their thoughts and picking apart fragile pieces of their soul. Books are the only way there.
Soul reaping as in the case of The Book Thief‘s narrator, Death.

The Book Thief book cover and movie poster
The Book Thief book cover and movie poster

“I wanted to tell the book thief many things about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn’t already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race-that rarely do I ever estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant.”

Far from being a Grim Reaper-like representation, Markus Zusak’s Death is a weary and cynical character with the relatively menial duty of carrying away the recently deceased souls.

This is why, when we readers get a glimpse into the minds of the writers by reading their stories, we fall, just a little, in love with them.
Or at least with the characters in the book.
But they are fictional in our realm and construed a mere thought. This is how and why we wish to escape reality.
In such a way, the writer of a book becomes the God of his World he is writing about, and the fate of all his characters are literally in his hands.

Death is handled like a sticky morning dew droplet in the book, On the Jellicoe Road. Throughout the entire story, Melina Marchetta has a firm grip on it.
Entire families die in a silken way.

“We were playing rock, paper, scissor,” she told him once, “I was paper, and she was rock, so I lived, and she died.”

Even in territory wars, what with Joe and the Cadets, the Brigadier, Death is not glorious. I wonder how the shortest lives seem to have been to the fullest. The justification of dying for the greater good is questioned. Else why would the survival instinct and prosaic life for progeny be instilled within all of us?

“Is a person worth more because they have someone to grieve for them? Who will be my memory?”

The morbidity and sadness of the entire story are laced with beautiful narration. With the most loyal friends brought together thanks to the saddest of circumstances, grief and forgiveness playing major themes, what else could Melina Marchetta have handed out to her characters?
Cancer, gunshot wounds, abusive parental authority- throw in a serial killer of children, and it is more than enough for Taylor Markham, the protagonist, to envisage a life of mysterious unhappiness.
Amongst the angst, we depend on Taylor Markham to become a leveller and clear-headed for the students and, more importantly, for her sake.
The gradual but sure unknotting that the story itself goes through in Taylor Markham’s head is bewildering and breathtaking.

On the Jellicoe Road book review
On the Jellicoe Roadbook covers

Melina Marchetta wrote her first book Looking for Alibrandi, when she was a teenager and won many awards, including the Printz award.

“It happened on Jellicoe Road. The prettiest road I’ve ever seen, where trees made breezy canopies like a tunnel to Shangri-la.”

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