Delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for The Magic Carpet by Jessica Norrie. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part and to the author for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.
Outer London, September 2016, and neighbouring eight-year-olds have homework: prepare a traditional story to perform with their families at a school festival. But Nathan’s father thinks his son would be better off doing sums; Sky’s mother’s enthusiasm is as fleeting as her bank balance, and there’s a threatening shadow hanging over poor Alka’s family. Only Mandeep’s fragile grandmother and new girl Xoriyo really understand the magical powers of storytelling. As national events and individual challenges jostle for the adults’ attention, can these two bring everyone together to ensure the show will go on?
This is one of those books that make you glad to be a blogger. You know the ones. The quiet, under-the-radar books that don’t really register on the ‘must-read’ radar. They aren’t the ones that everyone is fighting for a review spot for. The ones with month long tours of five bloggers a day that no one can find anything new to say about it by the end of the tour. This is one of the ones that you volunteer for because it sounds interesting and you have a gap in your schedule. You want to help out the organiser. You pop it in your diary and pretty much forget about it until it comes round in your reading rotation. Then – boom – you realise that you have stumbled on a beautiful gem of a book, a nugget of gold that dropped into your palm unexpectedly and you are so, so glad that you are a book blogger and that has allowed you to discover THIS book, this book that changes the way you think about things, that makes you see the world differently after you’ve read it. This is what makes book blogging such a privilege and a joy.
This book is unassumingly beautiful in so many ways. The construction, following the stories of a community through the alternating voices of different members from different backgrounds and different generations as they work on a school project, works perfectly to give clear voices to the characters. The author makes them all so distinct and believable, by the end I felt like I really knew these people; they were MY friends, MY neighbours, and I just wanted every one of them to get that happy ending. I thought she did such an amazing job of making each voice so authentic, really capturing the difference in the thought processes and speech of the children, parents and grandparents. It’s obvious that she has spent a lot of time observing characters and understanding them.
This is the story of our changing society. Of how we are trying to assimilate different cultures, backgrounds and faiths and re-weaving the tapestry of our country to accommodate the changes they bring. It reflects the difficulties this can bring, the misunderstanding and isolation this can cause for people of all backgrounds, how sometimes we fail, how some people resist but, underlying it all there is a strong vein of kindness and compassion in most people. This book is so relevant to these difficult and turbulent times in which we currently find ourselves, when it is so easy to believe the world has become a dark and unfriendly place. This book, with its message of hope is a welcome beacon, and I do firmly believe that, for the most part, the majority of us are these kind, compassionate, empathetic and tolerant people portrayed, despite the volume of protest we often hear. For the sake of my children, I so desperately want this to be true.
Throughout the book, the author gives light to a range of difficulties facing these families, which are sometimes hard to read. Domestic violence, racism and prejudice, abuse, isolation, bereavement. Unpleasant topics, but ones that people struggle with daily, often in silence, and these are things that can be affecting children in school, regardless of whether people know about them or not. One of the issues explored is how problems that parents are struggling with but believe they are hiding from their children can have a profound effect on the child. Children are acutely aware and sensitive and, regardless of whether adults speak openly about their problems or not, they cannot fail to be affected. The book illustrates this beautifully and, I hope, it will make more adults think about how they address problems with their children. It is difficult to know how much children should be exposed to, and the book acknowledges and explores that dilemma, but it is impossible to shield them completely.
The underlying message of this story is that, underneath colour and nationality and religion, we have so much more in common that we have differences and the exercise of having the children retell fairy stories, using their own words, demonstrates how our stories have so many overlaps and common themes. People are people the world over and, going back, have the same fears and problems, joys and successes and have used stories to record these. I thought this was such a clever and success motif to get across the point. If we allow ourselves to see it, there is more that binds us than divides us and as a society we need to highlight these similarities, rather than focus on our differences.
I am so happy that this book crossed my path. It is a thought-provoking, beautiful, sad, difficult but uplifting story and I would urge everyone to read it. It deserves a huge audience.
The Magic Carpet is out now and you can buy a copy here.
Please do check out the other blogs taking part in the tour for alternative reviews and other excellent content:
About the Author
Jessica Norrie was born in London and studied French Literature and Education at Sussex and Sheffield. She taught English, French and Spanish abroad and in the UK in settings ranging from nursery to university. She has two adult children and divides her time between London and Malvern, Worcestershire.
She has also worked as a freelance translator, published occasional journalism and a French textbook and blogs.
Jessica sings soprano with any choir that will have her, and has been trying to master the piano since childhood but it’s not her forte.
She left teaching in 2016. The Infinity Pool was her first novel, drawing on encounters while travelling. Her second novel The Magic Carpet is inspired by working with families and their children. The third is bubbling away nicely and should emerge from her cauldron next year.
Connect with Jessica:
Facebook: Jessica Norrie