Friday, June 19, 2015

The King in the Window by Adam Gopnik

Ok, I first read this book a long time ago, when I was in MG, and I loved it so much I ordered a used copy from Amazon after searching the used bookstores in Singapore and coming up with nothing. So I'm more than a little biased about this book.

The King in the Window is about Oliver Parker, an American boy who has been living in Paris almost his whole life. He's not particularly extraordinary, nor is he exceptionally evil. He's perfectly normal. One day, however, he puts on a paper crown, and quite forgetting it was there, declares himself the King of the Window. As it happens, there is a King of the Window, and Oliver is not only the new king, he has to lead the Window Wraiths to defeat the Master of the Mirrors.

In a way, Oliver reminds me of Bastian from The Neverending Story. Neither of them are particularly extraordinary, and for Oliver, this is quite ruthlessly emphasised. Bastian became a hero quite by chance, Oliver was made into a hero as part of someone else's plan. Oliver, isn't particularly eloquent (thought he slowly learns, a little), nor is he exceptionally quick witted or cunning (that would be Mrs. Pearson and Neige). He is, however, a lot less irritating than Bastian, and I was rooting for this not-quite-outsider the whole time.

Apart from Oliver and the window wraiths, there are a whole host of supporting characters. Neige, the French girl who lives in Oliver's apartment; Mrs Pearson, a Brit with an acerbic wit; Charlie, Oliver's American friend who has very particular ideas of how adventures are about to go and a lot more that I haven't touched upon yet. I loved how they all interacted, and I thought the fact that they all had something to teach Charlie was interesting.

I suppose if I have a little dissatisfaction, it would be about how the author generalises about France and America. But to be honest, most of the time, I thought all the detail the author gave helped me imagine the Paris of that book. The stereotypes of nationalities did give me (not the younger me, though) pause every now and then, but I suppose it was done in the interest of not dwelling too much on details that don't really matter.

Overall, this book lived up to my memories of it. I really enjoyed it, and the hardcover version I ordered is beautiful! I'm glad that I ordered it, and I have no regrets.

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