Book Review: Lanny by Max Porter

When I read Grief Is The Thing With Feathers a few years ago, I was utterly moved by it. I couldn’t compare it to anything I had read before. It was raw, emotional, poignant, thought-provoking and completely unique. So it was with great anticipation that I finally sat down to read Lanny. I was not disappointed.

One thing seems to be widely agreed upon by the many people raving about Lanny over on Goodreads: that it is almost impossible to review! Balancing on an indefinable point somewhere between poetry, prose and theatre, this unusual and enchanting story defies capturing. Eerily and beautifully told through the stream of consciousness perspectives, Lanny’s story unfolds in the dark and ominous voices of the people around him. It reads like a modern fairytale – reminiscent of the works of the Brothers Grimm in it’s haunting tone – and a cautionary tale that reflects on the viciousness of suspicion and rumours, and the cruelty that can be cast on those seen as lying outside out perception of ‘normal’. The story touches on the relationship between human beings and nature, appearance and reality, the unusual cast of characters displaying all the complexity of humanity.

Lanny is an unusual and sensitive child, with a vivid imagination and connected to nature in a way that disquiets those around him. Jolie displays a deep, tender love for her son, worrying over him whilst also being preoccupied with her career as a reluctant writer and the suspicions of the village. Robert is somewhat cold and absent, distancing himself from his wife and son, harsh and judgemental of Lanny’s unique way of moving through the world. This little, broken family is joined by ‘mad’ Pete, an eccentric artist whose friendly, artistic mentorship of Lanny creates a truly touching bond.

A chorus of village voices surrounds this eclectic cast and woven through it all are the unsettling whispers of Dead Papa Toothwort – a tree demon and reimagining of the Green Man from British folklore. Both wise and sinister, Dead Papa Toothwort takes this book from an unusual and poignant exploration of family and village life to a lyrical, otherworldly tale steeped in magic.

Immersive and atmospheric, this is a story like no other. Deliciously creepy and brimming with emotion, it has the feel of something ancient stirring within it. I cannot recommend it enough.

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