Review Blog

Dec 01 2016

The beach at night by Elena Ferrante

cover image

Ill. by Mara Cerri. Trans. by Ann Goldstein. Text Publishing, 2016. ISBN 9781925355741
(Age: 6+) Fable. Loss. Abandonment. Beach. This most unusual fable for modern times is narrated by a doll, Celina, left on the beach by its owner, Mari, besotted with her new playmate, a kitten. During the night the doll explains what is happening on the beach, the dark forbidding illustrations making the story feel most unsettling. First comes the beach inspector, a gruff man who the doll does not like, with his friend, Mr Rake. All the detritus left on the beach is swept up into a pile and the man lights a fire. Readers will cry out with distress seeing the pitiful bits and pieces on the beach pulled into one pile to be destroyed. And Celina's eyes peer out at the reader, calling for a response.
At first, Celina is warmed by the fire but after a while sees that her friends from the beach are being affected. Bottle Cap sizzles in the heat, Pony burns, and as Celina feels too much warmth, asks the wave to come closer. Eventually it does and sweeps her away, away from the man who is trying to steal her words. Eventually the kitten finds Celina and takes her back to her owner who has cried all night at her loss.
This unusual tale will have readers thinking about its ramifications. A lost toy, rejected by its owner because something has taken its place, is a familiar tale for younger readers, but the level of horror on the beach lifts it to appeal to an older audience. The stream of saliva taking the words from the doll's mouth too, requires more mature refection by the reader. A fascinating story well worth a look and offered to more mature thoughtful readers.
Fran Knight

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