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Book Reviews

Review: “A Corner of White,” Jaclyn Moriarty

February 14, 2016

I received this book for free from Pan Macmillan Australia in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: “A Corner of White,” Jaclyn MoriartyA Corner of White (The Colours of Madeleine #1)
Written by Jaclyn Moriarty
Published September, 2012 by Pan Macmillan
400 pages
Provided by: Pan Macmillan Australia
Genres: Contemporary, Fantasy
Purchase: The Book DepositoryBookworldBooktopia
Add to Goodreads
three-stars

Madeleine Tully lives in Cambridge, England, the World – a city of spires, Isaac Newton and Auntie’s Tea Shop.

Elliot Baranski lives in Bonfire, the Farms, the Kingdom of Cello – where seasons roam, the Butterfly Child sleeps in a glass jar, and bells warn of attacks from dangerous Colours.

They are worlds apart – until a crack opens up between them; a corner of white – the slim seam of a letter.

A mesmerising story of two worlds; the cracks between them, the science that binds them and the colours that infuse them.

I had no idea what to expect when diving into Jaclyn Moriarty’s A Corner of White, but it’s safe to say that what I was faced with was a total surprise. An utterly original and extremely bizarre surprise.

That’s the word that comes to mind when I think back on A Corner of White – BIZARRE. For a good half of the book it was extremely jarring… I had no idea what I was fighting to read, nor did I know if I particularly wanted to continue…

There are ‘parts’ to this novel, and there is no rhyme or reason to them. They are simply in odd places – sometimes a mere chapter apart, other times six or seven. Don’t even try to understand them. Also be warned that the language in this book can often be ludicrous – especially when the people from Old Quainte are talking – my head ached trying to decipher them. It was quite reminiscent of the riddles in Alice in Wonderland.

 “There’s something about her, about her essence or her soul or whatever, and it shines with all the colours that there are.”


A Corner of White is contemporary in the way of Madeleine’s story. She’s a fourteen year old girl in Cambridge, England and by chance she finds a note hidden in a parking meter (yup, odd in itself). Turns out the note comes from a boy, Elliot, in another ‘world’, a Kingdom called Cello. There are small cracks between the worlds and the two begin to communicate through the passing of letters through the crack.

The Madeleine chapters – although ‘contemporary’ – are extremely quirky despite the ‘normal’ setting. Madeleine has all these strange aspects to her life (weird home-schooling, a severely unhinged mother, etc.) and she constantly goes off on tangents of weird observations, becoming obsessed with historical figures and blathering about them for a good few pages. Everything is head-grippingly quirky in her world, so I was relieved when a little semblance of normality began creeping in toward the later chapters. There’s some good explanations for it (her parent’s relationship, her mother’s condition, etc.) and I started to actually appreciate her story for what it was. Despite all that, however, I found myself not actually LIKING her all that much? I thought Madeleine was pretty selfish and unrealistic for the most part. I hope that changes with book two.

“Ah, even sitting here on my front porch, looking out over the fields, there’s a part of me aches to see him walking. To conjure him out of the sunlight in the distance. The shape of my dad, I can almost see it, crossing the field toward me. Come to put his arm around me, reach out an arm to my mother as well, and I’ll close my eyes and just breathe.”
– Elliot

There are dual POV’s in A Corner of White, which I actually appreciated for once. I found myself really liking Elliot as a narrator and warmed up to him pretty quickly.

Elliot’s world is the Kingdom of Cello – a fantasy world, although it shares a LOT of similarities with our world. The main difference is that it’s plagued by ‘Colours’ – weird storms categorised by their appearance and colour, which do different things to Cello and its inhabitants. Some Colours can kill, some can spirit people away and others can simply make them super-active and want to achieve all their goals in one day. Yup, it’s pretty weird…

Elliot lives in Bonfire, a Farm town. He’s struggling with the disappearance of his father and tries to balance his lively social life with the big changes he’s going through. Extremely popular, Elliot is actually a nice guy despite it all and I soon found myself enjoying the dips into Cello, despite my initial head-scratching.

“And then something happened. It was a fragment of time, a breath of time. It was like being in a car in pouring rain and driving under an overpass, and for just that second there is a profound, powerful sense of reprieve- the utter silence of non-rain.”

I’ll admit it right now – the UTTER WEIRDNESS of this book put me off. But, somewhere around halfway through, my mind started to change. Why? I blame the Butterfly Child. As soon as this little creature was in the picture, I was all AWW THIS IS AWESOME and transforming back into my six-year-old self…. You see, when I was a kid, I used to wish I could find a fairy and keep it as a pet in a jar or little cage. So imagine my utter surprise when The Butterfly Child in A Corner of White turned out to be a tiny fairy-like creature who falls from the sky in a glass jar, bonding with the very person that found her – Elliot. IT’S SO INCREDIBLY CUTE and appealed to my inner child.

But, back on track… once you get used to the initial quirkiness and whimsicality of Cello, there’s actually some pretty solid ‘world’ stuff going on… There’s a kind of war brewing between factions called ‘Hostiles’ and ‘Loyalists’ and the Royal Family has some pretty major secrets of their own. Somewhere near the end, A Corner of White sort of explained all its weirdness in this roundabout way that made me really appreciate the rabbithole I’d been sucked down.

Was it my favourite book ever? No. Was it infuriatingly weird at times? Yes. BUT IT WAS ALSO COMPLETELY ORIGINAL AND UNIQUE.

I’m about to bound into The Cracks in the Kingdom now and I’m kind of excited. Now that I have all the quirks and surprised of A Corner of White ironed out, maybe I’m more prepared for what I’m going to find in the next instalment!

About Jaclyn Moriarty

Jaclyn Moriarty is an Australian writer of young adult literature. She studied English at the University of Sydney, and law at Yale University and Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, where she was awarded a PhD. She currently lives in Sydney.

1 Comment

  • Reply Kelly February 24, 2016 at 4:03 pm

    Wow, I had no idea this series was so unique and quite frankly, weird. I must admit, I love the Wonderland-esk nonsense in books, but communicating through cracks in the footpath through notes? That’s so incredibly whimsical and charming. I’m actually really excited to read this one now. Fabulous review as always Britt <3
    Kelly recently posted…The Siren… Ballgowns. Ballgowns everywhereMy Profile

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