“My full name’s Ed Kennedy. I’m nineteen. I’m an underage cab driver. I’m typical of many of the young men you see in this suburban outpost of the city — not a whole lot of prospects or possibility. That aside, I read more books than I should, and I’m decidedly crap at sex and doing my taxes. Nice to meet you. ”
If you loved the Book Thief and let’s face it, who doesn’t, then Markus Zusak’s other books are well worth a read. This one, The Messenger, also titled I Am the Messenger is some parts, was published a few years prior to the Book Thief, and is another stunning novel. Zusak is a remarkable Australian writer with a talent for creating characters that go straight to your heart and a plot both original and utterly beautiful.
This time the setting is Australia, just outside Sydney, where Ed Kennedy lives the life of an under-age taxi drive, a pathetic card-player and with a car crash of a romantic life. His life is mostly meaningless, without substance except for his three best mates, one of whom he is (not so) secretly in love with, Audrey. He is a disappointment to his mother, brother and even himself. Stuck in a dead-end town in a dead-end job…. that is until he get the first Ace. Ed is sent on a mission to do good, but the question is how. The way the story unravels from one task to the next kind of reminds me of episodes of Quantum Leap, a TV show from the early 90s with a similar premise. In creating this journey for Ed, Zusak also opens our world to a catalogue of very real characters, ones that could easily be your neighbour, friend of family. To say much more about the plot I think would detract from it, so I won’t.
“It’s not a big thing, but I guess it’s true–big things are often just small things that are noticed.”
But what I will talk about is the writing. It is masterful. The character, setting and dialogue are all recognizably Australian but without the being overly parochial like you might find with other authors – Tim Winton springs to mind here. There is something quietly poetic about Zusak’s writing yet at the same time there is none of the pretension or obscurity that often accompanies that. It feels natural, like something you might say yourself, or even that what he’s writing is coming straight from your own mind. Zusak style is entirely readable, filled with pace and pause in the perfect balance, making this story one you could easily rip through in a day…. but don’t, savour it, make it last just a little longer, it’s worth that much at least. Because once you finish it you won’t want to read anything else for a while, not until you’ve taken it all in and digested it.
This story is vastly different from The Book Thief, but the writing is no less magnificent, a true indication of what a talent this author really is. It’s technically classified as young fiction, aimed at a teen audience, as was The Book Thief, and I think teen readers would get a great deal from both books. But don’t let that put you off, it is equally as great a read for adults.
“I’m not the messenger at all.
I’m the message. ”