Amber and Clay. Laura Amy Schlitz. 2021. [May] 544 pages. [Source: Review copy]
First sentence: Hermes here. The Greek god -- No. Don't put down the book -- I'm talking to you. If the lines look like poetry, relax. This book is shorter than it looks.
Premise/plot: Amber & Clay is historical fiction written in prose AND verse (also exhibits with illustrations). It is set in Ancient Greece (4th century? 5th century? B.C.)
What is it about? Well, perhaps Hermes does a good job of summarizing:
I bring you a story that tells
of the quick and the dead:
the tale of a girl as precious as amber,
the tale of a boy as common as clay.
The meaning, the moral,
is up to you. We gods swap stories,
but you are the ones
who divine what they mean.
He goes on to say,
You poor mortals, you want to know why.
We gods don't suffer, so we don't care why.
Where was I? This story: two children. A boy, Rhaskos,
and a girl, Melisto,
plus a bully, a wise man, and a bear. Wait!
My thoughts: Despite me being at a lack of words when it comes to summary--read the jacket copy if you really want to know what to expect--I really thought it was a fantastic read. It requires some patience. I won't lie. If you want to read something that requires absolutely no thought, no effort, no engagement, then you might abandon this one rather quickly.
I loved the writing. I thought it was lovely--beautiful. I found myself highlighting line after line after line. Just beautiful "literary" writing that elevates a text.
I loved the history. She blends some real historical people into her narrative--along with some mythology--but plenty of her own fictional making. Sokrates was a great addition to this novel!
I loved the exhibits. At first I wasn't feeling the exhibits. I thought they were odd, peculiar, strange, throwing me out of the story. By the halfway mark, I was starting to change my mind. I was beginning to see that they were quite significant to the story. By the end, it was magical.
I don't love ghost stories--not really--but this one worked for me.
I've tried to write my story,
but writing's slow,
and Sokrates said
written words can't be trusted. When you read,
you can't ask questions. You have to ask questions.
Those are the most important things:
to ask questions.
My memories are like my drawings.
Some are no good. I mean --
when I used to draw in the dirt,
the line was fat and blurred,
and you couldn't tell what the picture was.
Now I draw on clay with a knife,
and my lines are sharp. Clear. Detailed>
Some of my memories are like that.
The early ones are blurred.
Look at him! Silver-crowned in the moonlight,
hoisting himself over the windowsill! He risks his skin
to visit a forbidden room
and worship a painted wonder. How he desires it!
Not the horse only, but beauty:
that is the thing he seeks.
I will give him
the best consolation a mortal can know:
not love, which is fickle
as faithless Aphrodite,
nor power, which makes a man
I will give him the power to create.
I will make him like myself:
a maker of beautiful things.
--Oh those scholars!
what little ducks they are!
Dabbling into history:
dippers and diggers.
They pore over bits of broken clay
and wonder what went on.
One thing I'm ready to fight for --
that we shall be better, braver, and more active men
if we try to find out what we don't know.
Can there be friendship if only one person loves?
When we say, He's my friend, do we mean
I like him or he likes me?
Or are friends like shoes?
Do there have to be two of them?
© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews