The New Policeman
It seems like there’s never enough time nowadays — no time to talk with family, enjoy a sunny day, or play music, and the buses are always late. J.J. Liddy and his family are definitely feeling the lack of time, along with the rest of their small town on the west coast of Ireland, so when J.J.’s mother says she wants more time for her birthday, he sets out to find it for her. Even if that quest takes him to Tír na nÓg and (hopefully) back.
I really loved the storytelling style in this book. Thompson’s writing is very simple and subtly humorous — it has a folk-tale feel to it which fits perfectly with her story. In addition to drawing heavily from Irish folk legend, she also interweaves her tale with the folk music of Ireland — each chapter includes a printed tune (almost all of them traditional) with a name which is somehow referenced in the chapter. It’s like the story has a soundtrack. And the occasional randomness which results feels authentically traditional, as opposed to forced or just stupid. The setting and plot are developed through the music and the traditional motifs with a lighthearted, easy-going, graceful style that appealed to me very much.
It always bothers me when authors fall into the Christianity-versus-fairytales dichotomy, which I feel is, in fantasy novels, a false one and not very fair to Christianity. After all, lots of Christians like fairy tales too — and see in them a powerful tool for illustrating moral truth in an exciting way and turning readers toward a love for the good, the true, and the beautiful. And when an author sets Christianity up in opposition to fairy tales — which, oh yeah, happen to be *real* in the author’s created world — well, Christians end up looking misguided at best, and real jerks at worst. (Especially when “fairy tales” include trad music and dancing!) This book does fall into this snare, though not nearly as pointedly as it could have — I didn’t get the sense that Thompson had an ax to grind against Christianity. There’s one virulently anti-fairytale (“superstition”) priest and supposedly lots more like him, but he doesn’t necessarily seem to represent *all* of them. I was just sorry to see the dichotomy introduced at all into such a delightful book.