Saturday, October 2, 2010

Jessi Reviews "The Stolen Child"

Title/Author: The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue
Publisher/Year: Nan A. Talese, 2006
How I Got This: Checked it out from the library  
Why I Read It: I love anything to do with fairy tales/folklore
Rating: 4 Stars

A quick synopsis (from Goodreads): On a summer night, Henry Day runs away from home and hides in a hollow tree. There he is taken by the changelings—an unaging tribe of wild children who live in darkness and in secret. They spirit him away, name him Aniday, and make him one of their own. Stuck forever as a child, Aniday grows in spirit, struggling to remember the life and family he left behind. He also seeks to understand and fit in this shadow land, as modern life encroaches upon both myth and nature.

In his place, the changelings leave a double, a boy who steals Henry’s life in the world. This new Henry Day must adjust to a modern culture while hiding his true identity from the Day family. But he can’t hide his extraordinary talent for the piano (a skill the true Henry never displayed), and his dazzling performances prompt his father to suspect that the son he has raised is an imposter. As he ages the new Henry Day becomes haunted by vague but persistent memories of life in another time and place, of a German piano teacher and his prodigy. Of a time when he, too, had been a stolen child. Both Henry and Aniday obsessively search for who they once were before they changed places in the world.

The Stolen Child is a classic tale of leaving childhood and the search for identity. With just the right mix of fantasy and realism, Keith Donohue has created a bedtime story for adults and a literary fable of remarkable depth and strange delights.
I have many mixed feelings towards this book. I have picked up this book off of my library's shelves countless times for the past several years. I've picked it up, read the synopsis, have been rather intrigued, and for whatever reason, put it back on the shelf for a later date.

This time, I finally decided to read it.

At first, I was kind of disappointed with this. My library has this shelved in the YA section, but I don't think it really fits there. I don't know how to put into words why I feel that way, I just do.

Once I got past the fact that this was going to be different than what I had expected, I immersed myself in this story. Like any good fairy tale, this is rather dark. It sort of brought to mind John Connolly's The Book of Lost Things in that sense.

As far as the characters go, I never really liked Henry Day (or I suppose I should say his substitute), but by the end, through Donohue's telling, I grew to understand him and what he was going through. I thought he was a jerk at first. I mean, he didn't seem very grateful for his new life, and, for having stolen someone else's life, he just seemed like a brat. Like I said, Donohue's character development really lets the reader come to see and understand how he is tormented by his own demons by the end. I did like Aniday, though, and overall, I have to say that I preferred his chapters. Seeing the world of the hobgoblins (or whatever you want to call them) and seeing our world through their eyes was really fascinating to me. Aniday's character grows throughout the tale, as well, as he learns and begins to understand his role as a "indifferent child of the earth."

This story really isn't about the plot, so not much goes on there. This was much more focused on the characters and their struggles to understand just who they are.

Donohue also did an excellent job with the alternating chapters. I was never once confused by what was going on, and the switch never seemed abrupt to me. While I did prefer Aniday's chapters, I started to enjoy Henry's chapters more when their separate stories began to overlap.

Donohue's writing style took me a little bit to get used to, but I suppose it was because the last book I read was by the short and simple Agatha Christie, and his language is a bit more flowery. He states that this story was inspired by Yeats' poem, "The Stolen Child." I thought that he deftly portrayed the sense of myth and imagination found in Yeats' poem.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. One of the reviews I read on the cover or somewhere (maybe his website?) mentions that this tale is like a bedtime story for adults, and I find this quite accurate. I enjoyed immersing myself in this age-old fairy tale and find myself still thinking about the world of changelings.


Oh, and before I forget again--two things. 1) I loved Speck! She was a kickbutt female character. 2) I also really enjoyed how she and Aniday would spend time in the library. Donohue drops literary references to various authors and as a bibliophile, I just love stuff like that.


  1. Jess--This sounds awesome!! And it reminds me--I HAVE to get my hands on The Book of Lost Things!!

  2. I hadn't heard of this before, but it does sound interesting.

  3. Thanks Jamie! You DEFINITELY need to read The Book of Lost Things. I really enjoyed this one, but I LOVED The Book of Lost Things.

    Sam--It's definitely an original story!

  4. I'd never heard of this book before, but it sounds really good! I'm adding it to my to-read list :) You mention Speck at the end, where does she come into the story?

  5. I read this a few years ago and really enjoyed it. It was definitely a different kind of read for me and I agree that it doesn't belong in the YA section.

    Kate @ Literary Explorations

  6. I read this quite a while back, and so I am having a hard time remembering much about whether I preferred one character over the other. I thought the overall concept was interesting, and a little freakish, but the entire story was well told.

    It most definitely is not YA. I think sometimes people get confused and assume YA is anything that focuses on children or young teens - which is just plain wrong.

  7. That sounds really good :o I mean, unlikable (?) main character aside, I like the idea of a darker fairy tale. Might have to put it on the to-read-someday list, lol.

  8. I really enjoyed this book, but I would never think to classify it as young adult. I always considered it as adult fiction. Odd. And yes, your two points that are minor spoilers - LOVED both of those things too :)


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