Time stops when you're reading this modern fairy tale
The Life and Time of Lonny Quicke by Kirsty Applebaum, Nosy Crow
Lonny Quicke is a lifeling, which means that he has the ability to give life to creatures that are dying, but at a cost. When Lonny uses his gift, it causes him to grow older. The larger the animal, the more time it takes from Lonny. If he were to help a human, it would turn him into a geriatric. To protect Lonny from his instincts, and selfish people who might take advantage of them, his family lives hidden away in a forest. Now aged twelve, Lonny’s curiosity is luring him away from his woodland sanctuary. He longs to see the world and find out more about the mother who died when he was just a small child. Is it dangerous to leave home, as Lonny has been warned, or can he safely move from the edges of society towards its enticing centre?
I spent the bank holiday Saturday reading The Life and Time of Lonny Quicke, and found it incredibly compelling and moving. It’s such an interesting and intriguing concept, and it’s explored brilliantly by author Kirsty Applebaum. Kirsty writes beautifully, drawing me in from the opening sentences. The book is narrated by Lonny who is powerfully brought to life. The reader feels all his anguish and loneliness, and Lonny’s struggle between preserving his own life and restoring that of the perishing creatures he meets.
I love how this book explores the theme of family secrets and how they tend to come to the surface eventually. By attempting to protect Lonny from the world, his father has just made it more fascinating. As a parent, I found this aspect particularly poignant - no matter how hard you try to keep children from harm, it will inevitably find them. We see how important it is to discuss our feelings as well as the people we miss. The father’s refusal to speak to his sons about their mother, or to keep her memory alive, proves detrimental to the whole family. All of the characters are fantastic and fully fleshed-out - I loved the eccentric grandfather, and all his amusing outbursts and turns of phrases. Lonny is gentle and generous with his gift, but he can't help the resentment he feels towards Midge, his younger brother. The freedom that eludes Lonny is available to Midge, and his birth also coincided with their mother's death. Midge is fiercely protective of Lonny, and a wonderful, compassionate character too.
For a book so concerned with time and how much of it is left, it feels remarkably timeless. This has a contemporary setting but a fairy tale quality, and reminds me of another of my favourite books, Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt. As it’s so well-written, if even felt like time had stopped when I was reading this - I got through it in practically one sitting! Am looking forward to reality slipping away again as I read more books by this talented author.
About the author: Kirsty Applebaum was born in Essex and grew up in Hampshire. She has had a wide variety of jobs including bookselling, railway re-signalling, picking stones off conveyor belts, putting lids on perfume bottles and teaching Pilates. She now lives with her husband on top of a hill in Winchester. Kristy has is also the author of The Middler and Troofriend. Both of Kirsty’s previous books have been selected for the BookTrust Great Books Guide and nominated for The CILIP Carnegie Medal. The Middler was shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize and the UKLA Book Award in 2020.
A huge thank you to the lovely people in Nosy Crow for making my weekend when this beautiful book arrived last Friday! I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review – all opinions expressed are my own.