22 June 2011


Option 9: Tall Story by Candy Gourlay
(Visit the new Giveaways page to learn how you could win this book!)

"I have sorry. My English is . . . barok."

Barok. Baroque? Broken?

"It's okay, Bernardo. I understand everything."

How many times had Bernardo apologised for his English? I couldn't seem to make him understand that it really, really was okay.

In a funny way, I think I do get a lot of Tagalog. Language is just like a film soundtrack. I've heard Mum and Dad say,
Hey that piece of music was the soundtrack of my childhood! Well. Bernardo's barok English was just him singing his soundtrack in another key. Not his key. My key. When I thought about it that way, it wasn't the funny, broken English that I heard, but the story he wanted to tell.

And what a story it was . . .

This is another book that probably shouldn't be in the June Giveaway pool because it already has UK and US editions--and will have an Italian translation coming out soon. (!!!) So if you want to read it, you won't really need me to mail you a copy from all the way over here. And that kind of kills the point of the giveaway, you know? =P

But Tall Story gets in the pool, anyway, for two reasons: a) I really, really like it; and b) I want to stop feeling guilty, for just a couple of seconds, for promoting the heck out of books that most people might not be able to read for years to come. At least you know that no matter how the giveaway turns out, you'll be able to walk to a local bookstore and order your region's edition of Tall Story. And that's win-win! =D

Behold the cover of the UK editions.
(The US edition has a very similar design.)
Call me predictable and biased, but I like the Filipino cover best.

Bernardo and Andi must be the most unusual brother and sister in Young Adult literature, bar none. He is so tall that his neighbours think he is a mythical giant reborn. She is so short that she is constantly underestimated on the basketball court. After his father died and their mother could only find work abroad, he had to be raised by an aunt and uncle in a poor rural village in the Philippines. Since their mother remarried her father, she has been part of a small but intact family unit in the cosmopolitan capital of the United Kingdom. His English is barok. Her Filipino is even worse. And now they must learn to live together as brother and sister.

Tall Story might seem to be about the East meeting the West and the ensuing culture clash, but it's really about brother meeting sister and finally learning how to form one family.

Our two leads split first-person narration duties between them so that we see both perspectives in full. There's something disorientating about being passed back and forth between two very different--albeit highly complementary--narrators, but Candy Gourlay soon brings us up to speed. If you can enjoy a basketball game, with all its quick passes and exchanges, then you can enjoy this novel. Just note that you're going to be watching the action from the point of view of the ball. ;-)

The cast is rounded out by Bernardo and Andi's mother, who I hope is as funny to non-Filipinos as she is to me; her English husband, whose small role is inversely proportional to his big heart; the most colourful personalities from Bernardo's barrio (including the neighbourhood witch!); and a whole slew of basketball-mad characters.

There are many more things to say about this book, but I think I'll let you discover all the great details yourselves!

You should choose this book in the giveaway if . . . you love the Young Adult genre and want to try a really original novel.

Image Sources: a) Tall Story by Candy Gourlay, b) Tall Story UK edition


Syrin said...

I added this one to my Amazon wishlist since it's available here. I think it's a great idea to add some like this so that we have some we can look up if we don't win. It also could mean that whoever wins will have an easier time narrowing down their choice, knowing they could get some of the others on their own time.

Enbrethiliel said...


Thanks, Syrin! I'm so glad you put it on your wishlist. =D And if someone gets it for you soon, I really hope you like it!