THE STARLESS SEA by Erin Morgenstern

Zachary Ezra Rawlings is a twenty-four-year-old student who one day, quite by accident, finds an unusual, very old volume in the library without a title, without record data, but because of the contents of the small volume it leaves him surprised and intrigued.

One of the stories in the book, namely, tells of a boy who once long ago found a painted door on a street wall that seemed strangely real, as if it could be opened… And the boy in the story, unprepared for the adventure he encountered, failed to try reach for the handle. Too bad. For on the other side of that door lay the adventure of a lifetime; the door was a portal to the ancient underworld in which all the stories of this world live and flourish. The boy, hesitantly, lost forever the opportunity to experience an unforgettable, unique adventure.

What particularly shocked Zachary was that this story from the little notebook was obviously the story of an unusual moment in his own childhood. Once upon a time, he found himself in exactly the same situation – the door described in the book, the place where he found it, and even the fact that the boy’s mother from the book made a living as a fortune teller – it was describing what Zachary has lived.

How is that possible? What kind of book is this and how could someone write his story decades before Zachary was even born? If this is possible, is it possible that then there really is a parallel world that all those in love with the magic of books, stories and narratives dream of? And now that Zachary knows that he once missed the opportunity to enter that world, what must he do to find the beginning of a story he lost a long time ago, to make him more courageous and determined and ready to experience something unforgettable this time?

“The Starless Sea” comes to us eight years after Erin Morgenstern conquered the world with her first novel, “The Night Circus.” In an interview with the BookPage portal, she said that, as a child of a librarian, she grew up with stories and books and that to this day she is looking for books to sink into and get lost in their strange magic as Alice in Wonderland. She is not, she says, satisfied with the fact that such reading experiences are still available only to children; she wanted to find – or create – a world that draws you in and enchants you with equal power, but that is suitable for adults. She wanted to write a book like that.

Did she succeed? If you ask me, my humble opinion is – oh, yes! She did spectacularly!

“The Starless Sea” is – I know that the series of words that follow will cause frowning and eyebrow raising – a story about stories, a story that tells itself uncontrollably, a story that is about to burst with saturation with strange stories and even more strange characters. This is one of those books that first revives, and then ambitiously, without apology and to the utmost endurance engages all the reader’s senses to permeate him as deeply as possible, as thoroughly as possible with wonderful fantasies about what we readers love most – stories, narrators, storytelling.; about the intoxicating infinity, the insolent freedom, and the cathartic disobedience of the imagination.

It reminded me of all the ways I forgot to use my own imagination.

This story is read as a huge blend of meditation and guided fantasy, it is a journey through stunning images and scenes, deeply nostalgic and melancholic atmospheres, but also a journey into questioning the true nature of the stories. And she is, the author reminds us the very way this book is written, wild and unpredictable.

If linearly arranged and logical action is very important to you, you could get lost in this book. If you don’t mind getting lost for hours in beautiful metaphors, in creative tapestries that can be woven with words, in scenes that hit the most naked parts of our being, in learning and reminding how much stories as a phenomenon are vital beings over which man often has no control (it can be bravely left to them or not), how stories are seducers who take us where no one else and nothing else can – then this is a book that you will not only enjoy, but which, just like me, you will want to return as many times as possible. The end doesn’t feel like the end anyway; moreover, the end refuses to be the end. You will see what I am telling you once you read it.

It’s hard for me to answer the question of whether I liked the plot or not; honestly, I have a feeling it doesn’t even matter. Moreover, it is not too important for me to try to answer that question. This is an unusual book; everything you read is so special, so wonderful that it makes irrelevant what happens in the book. Just reading this book is a reminder not only of the deep pleasure of reading, but of the intense pleasure of daydreaming without limits. When was the last time you did it, truly dedicated and committed to do it, and enjoyed it?

Do you know what taste, smell, texture, color, tone stories can be? When was the last time someone asked you an amazing, weird, strange question, one that seems to make no sense, but at the same time makes perfect sense? (Is this one of those?) When did the search for answers, at least in your own soul and in your own head, excite, occupy, and delight you?

But who has time for stories, when reality pulls us so roughly towards itself… But the merging of reality and fiction (even fantasy) is not only necessary, but in fact inevitable. Isn’t reality just a kind of story? Just one interpretation of what is happening to us? Just one possible reconstruction of everything that surrounds us and what we perceive? Just one story composed not of all available truths, but only of those we notice, which we choose and which we mount, the best we know and guided by some of our mysterious motives, into something we call reality?

This book is much more than a book; this story is much more than a story. Although I started it the way I learned to start stories, armed with adopted expectations towards the beginning, unfolding and ending, it quickly became clear to me that I really didn’t care how the story ends and why it leads me where it leads me. I just wanted it to last as long as possible, to never stop changing and reshaping into something never experienced before, to never stop opening up and – and to never have to be banished from this world of perpetual, melting discoveries, adventures and amazement.

As some respected critics like to say about certain books – this is a triumph of the imagination. And I cannot convey to you in words with what zeal in my heart I recommend it to you. Of course, if you love the unbridled strangeness of stories and their ability to lead us where we would never set foot alone… But when a story without question kicks us out somewhere and lets us manage as we know and can, we return stunned and forever changed. And grateful. Believing in the magic of stories that were once reserved only for children.

13 thoughts on “THE STARLESS SEA by Erin Morgenstern”

  1. I can’t get over how wonderfully you described this book! I keep telling people it’s like if bedtime stories met Inception.. and I know that’s still not quite right! It’s one of my favorite books of all time though, that’s for sure. I got to listen to the audiobook and it was brilliantly narrated! Love this so much!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve heard a lot about this book but this is definitely the best review of it I’ve heard. I’d been intrigued before but now definitely planning to pick it up. It sounds like an incredible journey. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ooo this sounds excellent!!! Can’t beat a book about books and libraries. Really lovely review!! Xxx

    Beth/imlockeddownwithmybookshelf.blogspot.com

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This sounds like an anime I like very much called Fushigi Yuugi, it is about a girl who is transported to a story. And she finds love.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What a fascinating tale to share and especially that the kid who found the book was the same kid in the story. I like surprises like that in fictional stories.

    Like

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