Liesl and Po
Author: Lauren Oliver
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publication Date: 29 Sep 2011
Synopsis from Amazon
'On the third night after the day her father died, Liesl saw the ghost.'
Liesl lives in a tiny attic bedroom, locked away by her cruel stepmother. Her only friends are the shadows and the mice - until one night a ghost appears from the darkness. It is Po, who comes from the Other Side. Both Liesl and Po are lonely, but together they are less alone. That same night, an alchemist's apprentice, Will, bungles an important delivery. He accidentally switches a box containing the most powerful magic in the world with one containing something decidedly less remarkable. Will's mistake has tremendous consequences for Liesl and Po, and it draws the three of them together on an extraordinary journey.
The beginning of this book starts with a personal note from Lauren Oliver that touched my heart and made me personally invested in the book, it was just such a beautiful and individual thing to do.
I also have to mention how amazing the illustrations are within this book; Kei Acedera really captured the identity of the characters and their interactions. The illustrations really added that something extra to the book making it something to treasure and pass onto future generations.
Written in 3rd person narrative, yet focalized from the alternating perspectives of the 3 main characters; Liesl, Po and Will. The third person narration allows for an omniscient presence within the narrative enabling the reader (ME) to witness the inner thoughts and actions of all the characters and how they relate to each other as well as the story itself. It amazed me how the threads of the story and the separate events of these characters wove together to create such a rich tapestry of a story.
For me there was a fairytale feel to the prose, re-enforced with the wicked Stepmother figure in Augusta alongside the imagery of Liesl being locked away. I especially liked how Lauren Oliver was able to entwine Liesl's and Will's dreams/imagination while keeping the fairytale parallels, a very, very clever piece of writing. Although the setting felt historical in nature with the carriages and steam trains, it also felt timeless; if that makes any sense.
Lauren Oliver really captured the way in which children are able to see things differently from adults; yet in some respects the way in which they view things can be clearer than the adults. I think 'ineffable' is now one of my favourite words. The way in which self confidence is diminished in children by adults was poignantly depicted.
On a personal note I did find some of the story quite upsetting with the idea that Liesl's father couldn't rest in peace until he was in the right location. For my sister and myself; my mother isn't in the right place but my brother overruled us [ : ' ( ] (You know what I say - Reading is Subjective - how can it not be) So I can completely relate to the reasons Liesl undertook the journey to lay her fathers ashes in the right place.
The other side brings to mind images of limbo/purgatory - can you imagine spending eternity in a place where there is no colours, where everything blurs - no sense of time or gender and you lose your memories. How awful would that be yet the way in which Po describes being a part of everything; having a connection to the universe does make it have a positive side.
As I said earlier the way in which all of the threads from each character culminate in a complete rounded ending was quite staggering. The minute details that may not have been picked up on while reading came together just brilliantly. I love, love, loved the ending it was just so heart warming. I want desperately to spill the beans but I shall hold myself back.
Such a beautiful book; death and bereavement dealt with in such a heart warming, touching manner I am sure this one will be a classic passed down from generation to generation.