The Glass Town Game by Catherynne M. Valente
Release Date: September 5, 2017
Genre: MG Fantasy
Inside a small Yorkshire parsonage, Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne Brontë have invented a game called Glass Town, where their toy soldiers fight Napoleon and no one dies. This make-believe land helps the four escape from a harsh reality: Charlotte and Emily are being sent away to a dangerous boarding school, a school they might not return from. But on this Beastliest Day, the day Anne and Branwell walk their sisters to the train station, something incredible happens: the train whisks them all away to a real Glass Town, and the children trade the moors for a wonderland all their own … (continue reading)
So I accidentally fell head-over-heels in love with this book.
Recently I read The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Valente, and I thought it was pretty much perfect, (as you can see in this casually self-promoted review, if you would like.) Well. This one was even better, which is saying a lot.
5 Things About The Glass Town Game
1. The writing is gorgeous. I’m convinced it is actually made out of magic and I would like to go live in it, thank you. I love Valente’s writing so, so much. If I could live in it I would. I like it because it’s magical and descriptive without being so verbose and dense it’s aggravating. (Dramatic, I know, but I get annoyed by aggravatingly verbose writing.) Here are some of my favorite snippets:*
Hatred felt like the terrible burning lye soap they used for laundry splashing up onto her heart instead of onto her hands.
Well, I would have said books, too, you know, but books are just obvious. That’s like saying you like air!
Charlotte’s lies spooled out like perfect, silken thread, and whatever they touched stuck together fast.
I should like to love someone who makes me feel the way I feel when the thunder storms on the moors.
You couldn’t ever really fix a sad story. You could only make another. And another. And another, until you found the right one at last, the one that ends in joy.
Okay, I’m going to stop now before I quote the whole book or start crying again. But seriously. The whole book is a work of art and PLEASE you need to dive in and get lost in the writing too.
*All quotes are from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication blah blah etc.
2. This book is, admittedly, a tiny bit strange. Okay, um, maybe more than a tiny bit. This book is strange and odd, but I actually think that is one the best things about it. I’ll admit I was a little lost for the first couple hundred pages BUT that was because a) I was suffering a major reading slump and b) I was really overwhelmed with school and wasn’t letting myself take time to enjoy reading. But! I finally broke out of my reading slump two days ago, and I read 300 pages of this book in one sitting and loved every single word, so I don’t think this book was too weird that it wasn’t enjoyable. I liked the weirdness and the whimsy. This book isn’t odd in a weird way; it’s odd in a happy, carefree, whimsical way. It made me feel happy. But do know that this story is, well, different; there are talking suitcases and wooden soldiers and a Napoleon who rides a rooster. A lot of whether you like this book will depend on just how much whimsy you can handle.
3. This book is loaded with metaphors and little Easter eggs that were SO FUN to find. Like all the metaphors about the Napoleonic battles and England. And the way the author discusses death. Another fun thing was seeing famous figures from throughout literary history pop up. The way the Valente portrayed Jane Austen was hiLARIOUS and I am still laughing. We also see Lord Byron who is this brooding eleven-year old poet who quotes himself and falls in love with Emily Bronte. It was all so much fun. At one point there is this cute little exchange:
No, Ellis – Emily! I would love you! I would be your husband!”
“So?” shouted Lord Byron desperately. “I’m eleven! Emily, my darling, don’t be so dramatic. You would be a Baroness, and dance every night, and never want for a single thing!”
4. The characters were phenomenally developed. I’m not an expert on the Bronte kids, but I’ve read (most of) Jane Eyre and I loved Wuthering Heights, so I know a little bit about Charlotte, Emily, Branwell, and Anne. I think the author did a perfect job of showing us a way they might have been when they were all little. Charlotte’s character felt like a person who could grow up to write Jane Eyre, for example. Plus it was SO COOL to see how their magical adventures in Glass Town would affect their books – and lives – later on.
5. This book feels really old, even though obviously it is not. The writing style and story style reminds me of the classic Victorian fairytales, like Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan and The Secret Garden. It’s not like it’s dense or hard to read like classics sometimes are; it’s like it’s timeless and like it’s been here forever. There’s just something magical about feeling like you’re reading something that was written 100 years ago.
One more quick thing: This is a middle grade book, but I think adults would like it just as much (or maybe more) as the target audience. I know I like it much more now than i would have at age 10-12. That’s not to say kids won’t like it, I just think this story has the potential to resonate deeply with anyone, even though on the surface it may just look like a kid’s book.
Have you read anything by Valente? What’s your favorite kind of writing? Is there an author whose writing you just can’t get enough of? Do you ever read Middle Grade books?
Content Guide: Since this is a middle grade book there is very little violence and no sex. There is some language but only once or twice and it is extremely light.