‘The Boy Who Sailed the Ocean In An Armchair’ is another expertly crafted piece of storytelling by Lara Williamson. It tells the tale of Becket and his brother Billy who are taken away in the middle of the night by their Dad from their almost-mum Pearl. Struggling to understand his Dad’s motivation for moving them, trying to adapt to a new school and desperately trying to find a way to say a proper goodbye to his Mum who has died we find Becket adrift from his life.
On Becket’s birthday his Dad gives him a paper crane and he learns from his teacher an ancient samurai legend that if a person can make one thousand origami cranes they will be granted one magical wish. Becket decides that this is the answer to all his problems. He will make the cranes and use his wish to find Pearl and finally find a way to say goodbye to his Mum – although this is technically two wishes he doesn’t like to follow rules. Throughout the book paper cranes seem to turn up in the most unusual places but it’s not till we near the end of the story that we find out the true meaning of their appearances.
Yet again Lara has assembled a complicated cast of characters which makes this such a compelling read. Becket’s friends all have their own difficulties which they are struggling to come to terms with from absent fathers to overly ambitious parents. It is this kind of loneliness and feeling of being different which connects them and brings them together as an unlikely set of friends. It if also full of humour provided by Brian, Billy’s pet snail and Becket’s misunderstanding over his Dads lady friends. I also enjoyed all the hilarious place name references scattered throughout the book such as the hairdressers called ‘Crops and Bobbers’, these help us to keep smiling whenever things don’t seem to be working out in the way we hoped.
Becket’s Dad seems to be struggling to come to terms with his new life and you get a strong sense that there is something underlying that we don’t know and we can’t understand why he would disrupt his already fractured family. With the absence of Pearl and his mother, Becket finds himself mothering his young brother Billy who wakes early in the morning and they seek comfort wrapped up on their mum’s chair. He tells him a story to offer comfort and reassurance:
‘Let me tell you a story of two boys – two brothers – who were making a journey, a journey in an armchair…Let me telly you how they survived the most terrible storm and how the armchair made sure they travelled safely to their destination.’
The story is an outlet for Becket’s pain and helps us to gain a true insight into his emotions.
This is a beautifully told story and is full of so many layers of humour, uncertainty, confusion and at the same time it is incredibly poignant. There are moments of heart stopping tension as we watch this family struggling to come to terms with everything that is going on in their lives. You give your heart away to this family and desperately hope that they can bring their lives back to a sense of normality before the story concludes. I love that this story is so realistic and tackles many different issues but still manages to have a magical feel which sustains your hope throughout.
Another magical read from Lara Williamson I’m so pleased that we chose this as our first book to read at our new Twitter book group, to find out more join us @KitLitReaders