Paoerback (Phoenix, 288 pages)
First published 2005; this edition published 2014
Rating on Goodreads: 3 stars
“A mysterious toymaker who lives as a recluse in an old mansion, surrounded by the mechanical beings he has created… an enigma surrounding strange lights that shine through the mists that envelop the small island on which the old lighthouse stands… a shadowy creature that hides deep in the woods… these are the elements of a mystery that bind 14-year-old Irene to Ismael during one magical summer spent in the Blue Bay. Irene’s mother has taken a job as a housekeeper for the toymaker, Lazarus, but his house contains more secrets than Irene and Ishmael have bargained for.”
Interestingly, I picked this up in Waterstones off an adult fiction table, not realising that it was in fact a children’s novel. When I realised, I read it anyway, because let’s face it, children’s stories are often as fascinating than adults’, if not more so.
Zafon has created a suitably dark tale for children, however, I feel the translation leaves a lot to be desired. At times it seems very slow-paced and almost monotone, with not nearly enough suspense that would be assumed for a ghostly thriller, even for a children’s book. The writing was at times magical, managing to capture Zafon’s skill, but overall, it fell a bit flat. I may read another of his novels, but if I do, I hope those translations are a lot better than this.