Liesl & Po
This review will mostly consist of random quotes from the book because I enjoyed Lauren Oliver's writing so much.
Coincidences play a great role in Liesl & Po and this is referenced early on:
“Coincidences; mix-ups; harmless mistakes and switches. And so a story is born” (page 35) I don’t understand the use of the semicolons, but what the heck, that’s just me being petty!
The world we find ourselves in has been 1728 days without sun (that’s quite along time if you think about it), everything is gray and in a perpetual state of laying-in-wait, and people are starving.
We meet a young girl, Liesl, who has been told by her stepmother not to leave her little room in the house’s attic. Her father is in hospital dying. One night, after her father has died, she is visited by two ghosts, one vaguely boy-shaped, the other either a dog or a cat. The human-shaped ghost, Po, asks Liesl to draw a picture for him, which Liesl agrees to do if he (or she) in turn brings a message to her deceased father.
Then we meet a young boy, Will, who turns out to be a alchemist’s apprentice (or rather errand boy), standing in the street watching Liesl’s attic room window hoping to catch a glance of her drawing. And then there a many coincidences and chance encounters that lead to an adventure in which one character saves the other and is in turn saved.
[I loved how Mo, the Lady Premiere’s guard who has dealings with the alchemist whom Will is apprenticed to, meets will and helps him hide from the Lady Premiere, how then Mo passes Liesl in the streets believing her mad because she is talking to the ghosts he cannot see. Will visits Mr. Gray with the box for delivery to Lady P. when Mr. Gray has Liesl’s father’s ashes sitting in a very similar looking box on his table, about to be delivered to Augusta, Liesl’s father’s late wife. And so all kinds of mayhem ensue and every single character gets embroiled in the affairs of the others’.
I was wondering how Liesl was supposed to bring her father back from the other side and why he was so sure that she would be able to do it.
There were so many keen observations in this book I can’t help but quoting:
(That was the kind of world they lived in: When people were afraid, they did not always do what they knew to be right. They turned away. They closed their eyes. They said, Tomorrow. Tomorrow, perhaps, I’ll do something about it. And they said it until they died.)
I also love Oliver’s excessive use of parentheses, whatever books on style have to say about this, since I find them very useful myself. :o)
(We will close the box too, on the lost girl Bella. Some stories are meant to remain private.)
The above lines, however, had me exclaiming: “What? Nooooo!” I was so curious to learn more about Bella’s story, who is Mo-the-guard’s long lost sister, who had suddenly and mysteriously disappeared when both she and Mo were but children. She was mentioned a few times in passing, but one could tell that Mo was still very hung up on her and her unexpected disappearance and that he missed her a lot. And Mo was my favourite character in the story anyway….
In my opinion, there is pure beauty to be found on page 118:
Then he [that’s Mo again, by the way] stepped out of his apartment and locked it behind him, and went off in search of the alchemist’s assistant, while his imperfect and hole-riddled brain continued sending the same message to his oversized and perfectly functional heart.
The boy should really have a hat.
Aw, this was so sweet. *sniffles*
There were also a couple of surprises for me. I had expected Augusta, Liesl’s evil stepmother seemingly in possession of Liesl’s father’s heart, to be a beautiful seductress with a conniving heart. It turned out that I was mistaken about her physical appearance and also the intellect at her disposal, and apparently she has a daughter, Vera who has been living under the same roof as Liesl all this time:
She was broad, and flat, and enormous, with a wide, coarse face, and hands as thick as paddles. She, too, was dressed in fur and lace, but she gave the impression of a full-grown toad. It did not help that when she was angry, the two warts on her forehead seemed to swell in size, as though expressing indignation on her behalf. (page 144)
Well, she’s certainly not a beauty in today’s conventional sense and she’s not particularly pretty from inside either.
The question remains whether the connections between individual character’s courses of action are simply happenstance and coincidence or whether Fate has her meddling hand in them. “That is the strangest thing about the world: how it looks so different from every point of view.” (page 168)
The importance of being a part of something bigger is contrasted with the need to be the centre.
Liesl was overwhelmed by a sense of the otherness of everything. She belonged to the world, but the world did not belong to her; she was only the smallest, sprouting part of it, a tiny wart growing on the backside of an elephant. Somewhere there existed a glowing, magical, center part of the universe, but she was nowhere near it. The ides made her feel both comforted and sad at the same time. (page 255/256)]
All in all, a lovely little book. If I knew any middle schoolers I’d definitely gift them with a copy of this book. But there are also a couple of grown-ups I know will enjoy this book. I’ve already lent my copy to my colleague who was quite enchanted. :o)