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The Green Man by Michael Bedard

The Green Man
by Michael Bedard

Sequel to A Darker Magic

Ophelia Endicott – “O” for short – is sent to live with her aunt while her father traipses around Italy, researching the poet Ezra Pound. O doesn’t mind too much, though; her aunt Emily has recently suffered a heart attack and needs help managing her bookstore, The Green Man. It has become disheveled and cluttered, much like Emily herself. O sweeps through her life like a fresh spring breeze, forcing her aunt to live healthier and brush the cobwebs out of the corners of the bookshop and her mind. But not every shadow can be illuminated by the enthusiasm of youth, and even as her health improves a dark force from Emily’s past re-emerges, intent on her destruction.

This book was not advertised as a sequel in any way; I never would have realized that another book preceded it if another reviewer on Librarything hadn’t happened to mention it. Once the fact was pointed out, though, it made perfect sense to me. Michael Bedard has a very spare writing style that rarely goes into great detail; I now realize that this may, in part, be due to the expectation that the reader is already somewhat familiar with the character Emily and the secrets of her past that are now impinging on the present. Not having read the previous book, I lacked this knowledge, so I evaluate the story from that perspective. (It’s also worth noting that over twenty years separate the publication of the two books, so it’s unlikely that any of the teens for whom the book is intended have read A Darker Magic.)

When it comes to setting an atmosphere and tone for his novel, Bedard is brilliant. I love The Green Man bookshop and its stacks of disorganized, dusty tomes. It’s an endangered species, this sort of haphazardly organized shop with an owlish owner reading in the back and refusing to embrace twenty-first century technology, and I felt a wave of nostalgia as O carefully tiptoed through the stacks and up the creaking wooden staircase to her aunt’s apartment above. Into this rather ordinary world slowly slips the supernatural; as O becomes more in touch with her artistic side she begins to see the ghosts of dead poets hanging out around the shop.

I have to admit, though, that it isn’t just the supernatural that moves slowly in this book. It took forever to get the plot rolling forward. The middle of the book has moments of real excitement, but by the end things have slowed once more and the resolution is weak and unsatisfying.

It’s nice to see a book aimed at teens that celebrates poetry as much as this one does. The life of a poet is glorified almost to excess: it is the poets who are special, magical, gifted, talented, and they are the ones who will truly experience life. It’s interesting that this elevated status doesn’t seem to extend to ‘normal’ authors, musicians or painters – at least, nothing in the book indicates that they, too, are especially blessed or in touch with the muses. But given how overlooked poetry is compared to these other expressions of art, it could probably use the boost.

4 out of 5 stars

To read more about The Green Man, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.


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