A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
‘Ada Sibelius is twelve years old and home-schooled. Her days are spent in a lab with her father Daivd – a computer science professor – and the brilliant minds of his colleagues.
David is widely regarded as one of the best in his field. That is, until he starts to forget things.
When he is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Ada’s world falls apart. But when he leaves a floppy disk for his beloved daughter, she has no idea that the coding within it holds the key to a past that her father refused to talk about. Navigating her teenage years without his guidance, will Ada be able to piece together the father she lost?’
I don’t know how many books I’ve read over the years – thousands, probably. Mostly I just read them, enjoy them (or not) and then move on to the next without a backward glance. Very occasionally however I come across a book which stays with me long after I’ve finished it, haunting my dreams and colouring my daytime thoughts. Liz Moore’s The Unseen World is one of the latter.
Like many of the very best novels, it’s an impossible book to pigeonhole because – with elegance and apparent ease – it combines so many genres that attempting to define them would only serve to diminish the whole.
Put very simply, it’s the story of a child prodigy and her journey from adolescence to adulthood as she gradually loses her brilliant and beloved father to Alzheimer’s disease. As his mind and personality disintegrate, she discovers that he is not who he claimed to be, and embarks on a journey that will eventually reveal not only his true identity but also her own.
Told through a series of interwoven narratives covering more than half a century, the story of the Sibelius family and their friends and colleagues is pieced together like a beautiful and complex puzzle, and it’s only as the last component drops into place, right at the very end of the book, that everything makes complete sense.
I approached The Unseen World with some trepidation, as I’m sure anyone who has watched a loved one being taken from them by mental deterioration would, but I was both intrigued and emboldened by the synopsis – and even before I’d finished the first chapter, I was captivated.
Liz Moore’s prose is beautiful and unfussy and her handling of a painful subject so gentle that the tears in your eyes at the extraordinary end are not of sorrow so much as grateful, if bittersweet, recognition.
Windmill Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House. 2016. ISBN- 9780099510734. 451pp.