Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Holes - Louis Sachar

Louis Sachar's Holes isn't a fantasy novel, it's partly a detective novel and partly a historical novel, and wholly gripping. I've read a lot about it on the Child_Lit discussion list so when I saw it in the library on Saturday I didn't hesitate to borrow it. When Stanley Yelnats, is accused and found guilty of a crime he did not commit, he's sent to Camp Green Lake; he really doesn't think it can be too bad, certainly better than prison. Stanley and his family try to pretend that he is just going away to camp like the rich kids do, and he promises to write to them every day. But the camp is nothing like the summer camps that rich kids visit. Camp Green Lake is a juvenile detention centre where the belief is that "If you take a bad boy and make him dig a hole every day in the hot sun, it will turn him into a good boy." There's no Lake and it's not Green either. The harsh realities of the camp, and the evil Warden who wears rattlesnake-venom impregnated nail polish and has her own reasons for making the boys dig so many holes, sometimes make prison seem like a great idea. Stanley Yelnats has always had bad luck and few friends, but Zero, one of the other boys at the camp, asks Stanley to teach him to read, and suddenly Stanley discovers that he is important to someone other than his parents. One day he leaves the camp to go in search of his friend Zero, who had run away a few days earlier after being mistreated. The journey of the two boys towards freedom becomes a battle with thirst, the heat and hunger in the shadow of Big Thumb - a mountain so entwined in Stanley's own family history that he knows if they can reach it they will somehow find salvation. This is a complex story which is riddled with harsh imagery and despair, yet it's also a perceptive and intricate look at family and friendship which never shies away from harsh realities, and it injects the story of a seemingly hopeless boy with a sideways sort of humour that somehow lightens the arid desert of Texas.

Sachar has recently published a follow-up to Holes, called Small Steps which follows up the stories of Armpit and Xray, two of the minor characters from Holes. There's also a Holes movie which I've not seen, and am uncertain about watching (I vaguely remember much discussion about it on Child_Lit, but as I'd not read the book, I didn't read the movie discussion !)

10 comments:

Kelly said...

I haven't seen the movie either, Michele, but I've heard it is very good. "Small Steps" was a bit of a disappointment, however. Definitely do not buy--a library book :)

Sheila said...

I loved this book! Reading it was like watching a jigsaw puzzle come together as Sachar wove together the separate story strands. I loved that moment when enough of the puzzle was together to see the picture: that "aha!" moment.

I also was hesitant about seeing the Holes movie; I'm always afraid to see movies of books that I love because I'm so often disappointed. But I actually think they did a decent job of capturing the spirit of the book.

Michele said...

In that case then, I'll risk borrowing the movie when I've some cash to spare for such things... And I'll look for Small Steps in the library, not that I'd have bought it without borrowing it from the library and reading it first anyway - with ready cash in such short supply, I only buy books I know I'm 100% about wanting to re-read (eg. Fire and Hemlock !)

Thanks for your advice Sheila and Kelly.

Camille said...

Don't be afraid of the movie. It was made by the folks at Walden who also did Because of Winn Dixie, the recent Narnia movie(Disney was only the marketer and distributer,) and the soon to be released, Hoot. The other great thing about the movie is they let Sachar do the screenplay. It is an excellent translation of the book. Very enjoyable, 5 stars!

I have the sequel but have not read it yet. Oh, so many books...

Michele said...

Thanks for the advice Camille... Funnily enough, I almost borrowed "Because of Winn-Dixie" from Blockbuster last Saturday, but I couldn't recall what anyone thought of it (I probably didn't read the Child_Lit discussion on the grounds I hadn't read the book at the time), so I opted for "The Corpse Bride" which I knew I definitely wanted to see !

Martin LaBar said...

For what it's worth, I recalling liking the movie, and thinking it was close to the book.

Michele said...

OK ! I've got it on my TBW (To Be Watched) list for when I have cash to spare to rent it... I did look for it in the children's library yesterday when I was there picking up the two sequels to Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, At the Back of the North Wind and some short stories of Dahl's, but it must have been out on loan (I didn't actually check - I just happened to look for it in passing).

lifelongreader said...

A really easy read, but well worth it. Great stuff!!

I love the way he keeps the chapters really short - look at chapter 2!!

Didn't get into the movie at all - but thought the book was excellent.

Michele said...

I enjoyed the movie. But I love the book !!

darius_calhoun said...

the book was very enjoyable to read loved every chapter an page of this book.i really loved the movie!