Gary Crew is an author I first discovered through his picture books, most notably The Watertower. The Children’s Writer is the first novel I’ve read by Crew. The characters in his novel are really hard to like, with all their human imperfections, but despite that, or maybe in spite of that, I really enjoyed this book in the end.
Charlie Bloome is a uni student and an aspiring writer who all of a sudden finds himself in danger of losing his girlfriend Lootie to Sebastian Chanteleer, a children’s writer with a strong distaste for children. The charm of this book is the fact that these three main characters leave a lot to be desired. The flaws in these characters make them jump off the page, as though they are real people, and not fictional creations. Their imperfections made me take a good hard look at myself whilst I was reading. All the more so because I am a writer myself, and Sebastian Chanteleer embodies the fears and insecurities of a writer, albeit in him, those fears and insecurities manifest in smugness and snobbishness.
I personally feel that Crew is at his best with picture books, and while this novel was interesting, the plot didn’t pull me in and hold me there until the end. There were times I put it aside in frustration halfway through a chapter; although after a day or so I felt the need to pick the book up again. So while it was a novel I could put down, it wasn’t a novel I could put down and never pick up again. Once I started reading, I needed to know what happened in the end. And, for me, endings make or break a book. There have been many books I’ve loved until the ending, where those final pages have culled the book from my list of favourites. Similarly, books which had only mildly kept my interest have completely changed my opinion in those last few words, propelling the book onto my list of favourites.
While I wouldn’t call The Children’s Writer one of my favourite books, the ending features an unexpected twist, and overall it is a compelling read, exploring what it means to be a writer and what it means to be a reader.
Published HarperCollins, 2009