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Book review: Lanny by Max Porter

I didn’t really know what to expect when I loaded Lanny onto my Kindle before a recent holiday. I’d read extremely enthusiastic reports about Max Porter’s novel, but didn’t know much about the plot or why people seemed to have so much affection for it.

As it turned out, Lanny is a strange but magical novel about a child who goes missing from a small English village. However, it is far from a work of crime fiction.

The story begins with an introduction to Dead Papa Toothwort, a mythological creature who oversees the village in its shape shifting way.

It hears the small-town gossip and deeper concerns of the people who live in the village, including an aging artist, a doting mother and a disengaged father, along with the sprite-like boy at the centre of the story.

Lanny’s disappearance exposes not just the prejudices of the community, but also kindnesses and friendships.

The book explores love, fear, difference and the nature of community, with the unexpected mystical element of the presence of Dead Papa Toothwort.

I don’t usually like magical or mystical themes in books, but somehow this element sat nearly with the more familiar and sometimes mundane themes that Porter explored in this Booker Prize longlisted book.

I really enjoyed reading Lanny and can see why so many readers before me loved it so much.

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