A NovellaBook - 2016
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR
In a remote house on a hilltop, a lonely boy witnesses a profoundly traumatic event. He tries--and fails--to flee. Left alone with his increasingly deranged parent, he dreams of safety, of joining the other children in the town below, of escape.
When at last a stranger knocks at his door, the boy senses that his days of isolation might be over.
But by what authority does this man keep the meticulous records he carries? What is the purpose behind his questions? Is he friend? Enemy? Or something else altogether?
Filled with beauty, terror, and strangeness, This Census-Taker is a poignant and riveting exploration of memory and identity.
Praise for This Census-Taker
"China Mi#65533;ville is a magician . . . who can both blow your mind with ideas as big as the universe and break your heart with language so precise and polished, it's like he's writing with diamonds." --NPR
"The book haunts the reader; what actually happened seems always just out of reach, glimpsed in shadow as it rounds a corner ahead of our vision." --Los Angeles Review of Books
"[Mieville's] been compared to Karen Russell and George Saunders, and rightfully so." --The Huffington Post
"Marvellous." --The Guardian
"Lingers in the mind like an unsettling dream." -- Financial Times
"A thought-provoking fairy tale for adults . . . [ This Census-Taker ] resembles the narrative style, quirkiness, and plotting found in the works of Karen Russell, Aimee Bender, or Steven Millhauser." -- Booklist
"Brief and dreamlike . . . a deceptively simple story whose plot could be taken as a symbolic representation of an aspect of humanity as big as an entire society and as small as a single soul." -- Kirkus Reviews
From the critics
SummaryAdd a Summary
This Census-Taker is set in an unnamed time and country in a rural mountain town. The story follows an unnamed small boy who lives a remote life with his parents filling his days watching his mother garden and drawing on the wallpaper in the attic. After he witnesses a traumatic event, he dreams of escaping to the town below and living with the street children he’s met on his few expeditions with his mother. As his fear of his parent increases, the looming dread of the story rises until a stranger comes to record an inventory of the household. Is this the solution the boy has been waiting for?
This novella is an enigmatic story told from the perspective of a 9 year old boy, along with a young child’s ability to interpret situations. This helps to increase the mysteriousness because you can never fully trust the narrator’s account or knowledge. The book changes from first person to second to third person regularly, which increases the uneasiness of the story. Shifting from “I” to “the boy” is a coping strategy for the narrator and makes the reader question his interpretation of events as well as his memory. As the boy deals with the repercussions of a harrowing event, he seems unable to fully make sense of what he has witnessed. What really happened? What are the true motivations of those around him? Who are his parents?
The writing style is Spartan, much like the life the boy lives, and it serves to instill the slow-building dread and trepidation in the reader. This book leaves much unrevealed and readers who enjoy ambiguous endings and interpretation of an author’s intention will feel very comfortable with this book. The story keeps the reader guessing as to what is real and what has been remembered.
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