When I was little I used to love the 'Jolly Postman
', a children's book by Janet and Allan Ahlberg about a postman (a jolly one) delivering letters to various fairytale characters. The story was sweet and illustrations lovely, but what I loved most was the fact there were actual letters inside little envelopes that one had to take out, unfold and read to continue with the story.
It is that interactive side to reading that first drew me to Nick Bantock
's beautiful Griffin and Sabine trilogy - a sort of exquisite Jolly Postman for grown ups - a book entirely in correspondence. In truth, I first read them when I was too young - I stumbled across them in my parents' bookshelves and was drawn to the front cover. Consequently, I didn't wholly understand everything the books hinted at (but going back on them and reading them again has been inspiring) - but I adored the gorgeous illustrations (all Bantock's handiwork), the art form of the exchange of postcards, both sides shown to the reader, and the crisp letters folded inside envelopes.
It is, essentially, an enigmatic and artistic love story spanning three books, sparked when a postcard arrives from Sabine, to Griffin. She is a stamp illustrator who has lived all her life on a tiny Pacific island, and he is a lonely, disillusioned artist based in London. Mysteriously, she can see every stroke he paints, and every line he draws, and so on finding out his identity, writes to him to try and understand the phenomenon.
And so the extraordinary correspondence is born!
It is both a puzzle and a joy to read. I have only just discovered that he wrote a second trilogy following on from the first - the next three are definitely on my Christmas list!
Would you read a book like this? Or would you feel childish?
P.S. J J Abrams has recently been involved with a book called 's.' which sounds like a similarly interactive reading experience. It's essentially an old, cryptic novel by a fictional author filled with handwritten notes in the margin, and with newspaper clippings, scrawls on napkins, and scraps of paper tucked into the pages. I am dying to read it- it sounds so interesting (though perhaps pretentious? But maybe that's JJ for you!). Here's