My Review of Inkheart
February 25, 2009
A friend of mine lent me the book Inkheart by Cornelia Funk and I read it last week. It was an intriguing story. Already the nuances of the plot are slipping from my mind, since I did not sit down right away and record my thoughts of it, but the things that remain are this: It was a good, entertaining story. I loved the thought-provoking exploration of the process and nature of creating a story. And most strongly, I loved the character of Dustfinger and the longing and homesickness he felt to get back into his own story. That captured my imagination above all else in this book.
Basically it is the story of Meggie, a 12-year-old girl, and her dad, Mo. The mom is conspicuously missing for the first 150 pages of the story, but you don’t find out why until Mo finally tells Meggie the story… Mo pulled three characters from the book Inkheart when he read it aloud to his wife nine years previously. He “read them” from their pages, inadvertently, and simultaneously read his wife into the story. So Meggie and her father, and the original author of the book go on a quest to stop the villain Capricorn and retrieve Meggie’s mother from the book. The story line is interesting and engaging, and too complicated to recount in a review such as this.
I thought that Inkheart provided a fascinating glimpse into the process of what Tolkien called “subcreation.” When we meet the author of the story within the story, he is awed and delighted and also horrified at the characters he created. The intimate knowledge he alone has about his characters – things that aren’t explicitly in his story but that shaped the personalities of his creations – proves to be a useful plot device and also a peek into the creative process of writing a story.
The most poignant character, in my opinion, is Dustfinger. From the time when Mo “brought him out of his story,” he has lived a life of loneliness and homesickness. He has tried, in vain, to have Mo read him back into his story. He longs for the fairy tale creatures he left behind in his story, and laments the fast pace of this world, and its garish brightness and noise. He is not a completely likable character – he is self-absorbed with his own interests and even betrays Meggie and Mo. He is not always kind and caring. Sometimes he takes delight in hurting the feelings of others. But somehow, the author managed to elicit great pity in my heart for Dustfinger. He is lonely, and yet he resists love. He is daring and takes huge risks – yet he weeps alone and calls himself a coward. A poignant line: “Dustfinger could guard his face…he could make it inpenetrable, a shield to keep his heart from prying eyes. What business was it of anyone else to know what was in his heart?”
I look forward to reading the sequel to Inkheart, to find out what happens with Dustfinger who I feel tender toward because I can identify with him. The longing to be home, the sense of belonging to a different story and stuck here in this world – a sad story indeed, at times.