‘Lanny’ by Max Porter

My rating: 4 stars

The connection of three people with a child and the power of nature are brought to life in Lanny by Max Porter. Set in a small village near London, this novella, which is written in stream of consciousness and is filled with meaningful design tricks, mixes a myriad of human reactions with magical elements. Despite being fragmented and consisting mainly of memories of certain moments, it is surprisingly engaging.

Dead Papa Toothwort, some sort of mythical entity that is used to scare children, wanders around the village and listens to all the sounds. He waits until he hears his favourite one – the sound of a boy named Lanny. What he listens to is presented in a graphically different way. Words become waves. They don’t form full sentences, though. They are just fragments of longer conversations by random people, which, nevertheless, help to shed some light on what is going on in society.

Lanny is also presented to readers in the first part through the perspectives of his mother, his father and Pete, who muse on their lives in the first person. Lanny’s mum is an out-of-work actress and aspiring crime writer. She convinces Pete, an older artist, to teach Lanny how to paint. Pete and Lanny form an endearing bond. On the other hand, Lanny’s dad, who works in the financial sector in the City, seems embarrassed of his son, because he behaves differently from his expectations. On occasion, even Lanny’s mum starts to ponder on some of his behaviours, despite loving him dearly.

The structure of the second part of the book is considerably different from the first. There are more and shorter points of view. They convey not only the involvement of a myriad of people, but also the tempest of feelings and worries attached to the situation at hand. The story of a family becomes additionally an enthralling amalgamation of the reactions of the inhabitants of the village.

The way in which the story is told is technically brilliant. I didn’t become fully attached to the characters, however, and for that reason the book is not as affecting as it could have been. I’m curious to discover more of Max Porter’s work, though.

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