I’m sure that if you’re jetting off on holiday this summer, or even if you’re staying at home, you’ll have no trouble finding a fun, disposable beach read or a formulaic crime thriller to race through as you soak up the sun (fingers crossed on the sun part!) But if you want something a little different, a little bit surreal and definitely thought-provoking, I have a tiny gem for you.
Light Boxes by Shane Jones is somewhat of a cult hit and it’s snowy, creepy cover may not seem like a likely candidate for a summer read. But this little book is well worth your time. In fact, it will barely take any time to read, as it is more of a novella that a fully-fledged novel, with short chapters that sometimes read more like poetry than prose and an ever changing font size. It’s a book that determinedly defies classification and proves how the arrangement, size and font of the words on the page can contribute to the magic of a story.
Light Boxes is a twisted fairy tale which reminds you just how dark our folklore can be. The story concerns a town where it has been winter for 300 days and all flight is banned. The perpetrator is February who lives on the edge of town with the mysterious girl who smells of honey and smoke. Children have started to disappear and the townspeople decide to wage war against February with some former balloonists creating a rebel group called The Solution, who wear top hats and brightly coloured bird masks.
What follows is a twisting, compelling story full of startling dark imagery and haunting scenes. Jones is talented at creating grim images which linger long after the book has been closed and manages to make a novel with no illustrations seem full of pictures. It is at times brutal, with a cold detachment from death and horror that makes it all the more chilling. And in the end, you ask yourself, what was it all really about? I have my theories and I’m sure you’ll have yours. The movie rights for this book have been sold and with a story as visual as this, celluloid seems like its natural home.
You could devour this book in your garden in one afternoon, and believe me, you’ll be glad of the sun on your back when you’re through.