Book – The Slightly True Story of Cedar B. Hartley (Who Planned to Live an Unusual Life)
Author – Martine Murray
Year – 2002
Genre – Young Adult
The first thing worth mentioning, is that this book is currently leading the longest title of the year award by a considerable length. Should I have cause to write it again here, I think I shall abbreviate to Cedar.
Picked up in a charity shop three-for-two deal on account of it having a bright and vibrant cover, I wasn’t expecting an awful lot of this book, but it just happened to be on the top of my ‘to be read’ pile (or more accurately, one of my ‘to be read’ piles) as I was dashing out the door for work one morning, having finished my last book late the night before.
After a few pages, I began to feel that this was just a bunch of childish fluff – the basic premise is of a twelve year old girl who is a bit of an outcast, so she daydreams a lot and hopes to become an acrobat. But the trick of this challenge is to persevere, and this was a lovely case of that ethos paying off.
Cedar is a perfectly charming read, and the vast majority of that is down to the style of the writing. At twelve, our narrator Cedar is not a little kid, but not quite a young woman, and is instead somewhere in between, and her language backs this up beautifully. It is a mixture of childlike whimsy and attempts to sound grown up, resulting in her announcing to us that her mother is forty but looks younger ‘because she has a small nose’ or that her friends dog is about ‘twice the size of a slipper’. Nothing she says is quite the way that we – as refined, educated people – would put things, but nonetheless, it usually makes perfect sense, and is several hundred times more interesting.
So talking of all this magical language means that you may think me a little silly when I say that I could draw some very direct parallels between this and The Catcher in the Rye. Both are stories of people who have gone through some disturbances in their lives, and both – in slightly different ways – are massively affected by losing brothers. Both try to brush aside their sadness and think of running away to sort it all out. This is before even mentioning the stream of consciousness style of writing that both books employ to such good effect. Maybe I am reading to much into things, but in one section where Murray discusses the term ‘chewing the fat’ – a phrase used in The Catcher in the Rye – I could almost feel that there was a certain homage to the book, however different they may be.
It’s always nice to find a pleasant little surprise such as this one, and is certainly worth a look should you need a third in a three-for-two deal at your local charity shop.