I read a lot of books. On average I get through three novels a week. Some of those I may not ever read again. Some I know as soon as I’ve read them I will want to read them again. They get spirited away onto the bookshelves that I end up rearranging after each new release and they get re-read in the next few years. And there are some that I want to read as soon as I finish them and I will go back and re-read them as soon as I can.
But I don’t think any book has nagged me quite so much for a re-read as Laura Lam’s Pantomime did. I read and reviewed it last October before the release (the review is here if you aren’t familiar with the book) and thoroughly enjoyed it. The characters are so well depicted, the story itself is compelling and I knew this would be the kind of book that would be just as rich a reading experience the second time around.
So, five months on the nagging had become too much and I went for the re-read. Even though I already knew what was going to happen and had already experienced the tension, the drama and the secrets unfolding, I enjoyed the book as much as I did the first time. There were little details that perhaps I did not notice or register on the first reading, and there were elements of the plot that I had forgotten only to be surprised and impressed by them once again.
I can’t put my finger on exactly what is that makes this book work so much for me. It explores identity in terms of discovering who we are and being true to ourselves rather than shaping ourselves to how other people say we should be. This is a topic close to my heart, being a firm believer that no one should have to comply with the expectations society places on them or change elements of themselves to suit another person or situation.
So that is possibly why I feel such a connection to this book. It could also be the skilful storytelling; the arranging of a narrative in such a way that its secrets and mysteries are revealed slowly, little pieces of the puzzle coming together here and there to always be simultaneously rewarding the reader for coming this far and tempting them with the promise of more. Events in the present are interspersed with various moments from the past to complete the story whilst at the same time raising more questions.
Whether it is the exploration of identity, the narrative structure or the elements of magic and the inherent appeal of the circus that makes Pantomime such an absorbing read, I cannot say. For me I think it is the combination of all of the above. It is a story that conceals as much as it tells so perhaps the appeal is the reader’s desire to know the full story. It is a book that has a lot to say and a wonderful world and story to tell it in. I know it will be one that I will read time and again and maybe I will never quite know why, but the only way I can categorise it is ‘spellbinding’. Whatever magic it weaves I have been truly captured.