I’m a big fan of giving books as gifts, though I don’t have many people for whom I would do this. I so enjoy the weeks of considering the perfect books, weighing up all my options. Even more than this, I enjoy receiving books as gift which, coming from a non-booky family, you can imagine that I don’t get very often. I am very fortunate, however, to have people like Wendy in my life, who recognises all too well how wonderful a gift a book can be and who gave me a beautiful book for my birthday this year.
She chose a copy of Audrey Niffenegger’s The Night Bookmobile – which as a book lover and fan of Niffenegger, I immediately fell in love with. After some debating with Wendy about its classification as either a ‘graphic novel’ or ‘adult picture book’, I have decided to go with the later, but with the caveat that it is indeed intended for adults – do not let its heavy use of illustration and picture book format sway you into thinking that it is intended for children.
Without giving you any spoilers (it’s only 40 pages – go, find yourself a copy), The Night Bookmobile tells the story of Alexandra, live long reader and booklover. One night, after a fight with her boyfriend, she heads out for a walk where she encounters a library mobile – one that operates only from dusk to dawn. Stepping aboard she peruses the shelves... only to come to the realisation that not only has she read all the books, these are all the books she’s ever read, right down to her childhood diary. The librarian explains that this is, in fact, HER library, that it is his job to shelve everything she ever reads. The following years for Alexandra revolve entirely around the bookmobile – the finding of it, and her, apparently fruitless, endeavour to gain the chance to work with it. Through doing so Alexandra is forced to evaluate her life, both as a reader and as a person.
Firstly, I cannot say how much I loved this book. It most certainly had its darker moments, but the core idea, that of the personal bookmobile really intrigued me. I starting thinking of all the books I had ever read in my lifetime, stacking up there on my bookmobile shelves. I started to think of all the books I started and never finished. And all the books I read in secret, too embarrassed to have their covers show – though I would never do it, I can’t help but imagine these poor books sitting there naked, their covers having been torn off. I started thinking about all the ebooks I’ve read, all the blogs and articles online – and I start to wonder if my bookmobile has a digital wing. The concept has crawled into my brain and it is not going anywhere.
Thought not as wordy as her novels, Niffenegger’s precise prose is again present here in The Night Bookmobile – but this time married with her simple but touching illustrations. It was a quick read (like I said, only 40 pages, and much of that illustration), but no less a moving one. In fact, I read it over several times in that first sitting, uncovering new details each time. If you’re a booklover, or a fan of unconventional stories, I recommend it heartily – and if you do read it, please come back and tell me, as I would love to discuss it with you in more detail.