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Lungdon by Edward Carey

Lungdon (2015)

by Edward Carey

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At the end of Foulsham, the Iremonger family had fled the burning borough and escaped to London, taking refuge among the anonymity of residential streets. But their arrival hasn't gone unnoticed ...

Once again the author presupposes the reader's familiarity with the events of the first two volumes of the trilogy, and the plot would indeed make little sense to anyone who hadn't read Heap House and Foulsham. Here then is the culmination and conclusion to the trilogy, but I felt curiously underwhelmed while reading it, compared to the other two books. I think this stems in large part to the fact that the novel takes such a long time to pick up some pace (nearly 200 pages in), and that the voice of the narrator (with their respective first-person perspective) changes several times. While it is true that tension and the element of danger and menace increase considerably the closer the reader gets to the end, vital momentum is also lost in my opinion by making the sections of dialogue too long, and by moving the focus from one person to another and another, and even Queen Victoria gets to have her say!

Edward Carey's prose is almost lyrical in places, with wonderfully wry dialogue and quite philosophical observations, and the illustrations are once again first rate and add another layer to the already multiple layers of the narrative. It addresses universal topics such as family, love, loyalty, betrayal, friendship, conscience and the fear of the "other" in a way that children (who are, after all, the intended target audience) can understand, but I feel the book is about 50–100 pages too long, and would have benefited from tauter pacing.

Though not as engaging as the other volumes, the Iremonger trilogy has been an extremely enjoyable reading experience and comes highly recommended to young and not so young adults. ( )
  passion4reading | Aug 5, 2016 |
Edward Carey
Lungdon: Book Three (The Iremonger Trilogy)
The OverlookPress
Hardcover, 978-1-468-30955-3 (also available as an ebook), 512 pgs., $17.99
November 2015

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t read Heap House: Book One (The Iremonger Trilogy) and Foulsham: BookTwo (The Iremonger Trilogy) then proceed at your own risk.

“There has been no light. Not for days now. We all live in darkness and pretend it is the most natural thing. … It has been like this ever since the new family moved into the house across the street.” – Report from a Bedroom Window (from the journal of Eleanor Cranwell, aged thirteen, 23 Connaught Place, London W)

The new family across the street is the Iremonger clan, birth objects in tow, who have escaped the destruction of Heap House and Foulsham, and come to forbidden London to infiltrate, plot (Guy Fawkes style), and wreak a most Iremonger-ish vengeance. The British government has instituted a quarantine of anyone who managed to escape its incineration of Foulsham and harboring survivors of the conflagration is a crime. The heretofore gentle, anxious, pitiable Clod Iremonger and the huge-hearted, democratic, limitless Lucy Pennant have been separated again: Clod held prisoner by his family and Lucy presumed dead in the smoking ruin of Foulsham.

Inexplicable things are happening to the people and things of London: school desks sprout fifth legs, hat stands weep, fire extinguishers grow taller, a terrestrial globe in a stateroom in Buckingham Palace has come down with pox, orcs are ubiquitous and doppelgangers lurk, people disappear and objects appear. In short, rotten Iremongers are spoiling everything. Clod has begun to understand the secret to the strength of his telekinetic power over objects and begins to exercise this power. It is up to Clod to save his family or save London. Confused, manipulated, angry, and heartbroken, Clod the diffident becomes Clod the righteous conjurer and he must choose. Lungdon, the final volume in the Iremonger Trilogy, is the tale of how Clod earns his trousers.

When I was offered Lungdon for review, I was familiar with Edward Carey’s work but hadn’t read the Iremonger books yet. So I began with Heap House and immersed myself. I was instantly charmed by Edward Carey’s fully-imagined, uniquely brilliant universe, where neither people nor objects are what they seem, enhanced by his own clever, mildly disturbing black and white illustrations. Lungdon and its predecessors are a fantastical brew of Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, Lewis Carroll, and Tim Burton, borrowing from the Brothers Grimm and the Pied Piper of Hamelin.

Carey’s lyrical style in the Iremonger series reminds me of the free-association of the Beat poets. Here Clod is lamenting the destruction of Heap House: “Our home, old home, old place, disgraced and thrown over, blackened, cracked, forlorn, forgot, death place, dead home, death knell, pell mell, gone and gone and never ever to return. They pulled it down. And never will it up again.”

Carey is adept at causing panic with a very few words, usually in a chapter heading, such as: “Concluding the narrative of…” Consider possible implications of the word “concluding.” He is also funny, as in this wry dialogue, a comedy of manners, between Clod and his betrothed (reluctantly on his part – an arranged marriage, as per Iremonger tradition), cousin Pinalippy:

She handed me various circles of white material. They all had holes in them.
‘They are doilies, Clod.’
‘So they are,’ I said.
‘For familiarity, Clod. For remembrance, Clod. For you, Clod.’
‘Oh,’ I said. ‘Righto.’
‘Is that all?’
‘Well done, Clod, we’re quite coming along, you and I.’
I didn’t say anything.
‘Aren’t we?’
‘Er, yes?’ I whispered.
‘I think that went very well, don’t you?’
‘Oh dear,’ I whispered.
‘He calls me “dear”!’
‘I didn’t…’

The action passages are exciting, the imagery vivid, as when Clod discovers the awesome strength of his power:

“I tugged it and it came free. With my eyes tight shut I moved the house on Connaught Square, ripped it away from its neighbors, I walked with it, it came along with me. As I stepped forward in the drawing room downstairs, with each step I moved, the house came with me, so that as I walked I seemed to make no progress because the house was keeping up with me, the faster I walked towards the wall, never reaching it, the faster the house smashed through the square. Out of the broken windows I saw flames going by. On the move, a whole house alive and moving. Oh the great wonder of it!”

The final reckoning shifts points of view in an unbroken stream, a very effective technique conveying the confusion, speed, and urgency of events, culminating in a satisfying resolution.

Using multiple first-person narratives, including Queen Victoria, Carey explores big themes in Lungdon: liberty, compassion, love, commonalities, greed, power, corruption, and the denigration of the “other,” resulting in The Big Lie which births, nurtures, and spreads fear. We are individuals, not cogs in a machine; we are not to be acted upon; agency is a birthright by dint of existence, requiring no further justification. The dichotomy of “either/or” and “me or you” is revealed as false. As Clod anguishes:

"Oh this business of human feeling, of keeping the engines, all the tubes of thoughts and emotions, all the cogs of love and like and hate, what a great effort it all was! How to make sense of how another person tocs and ticks, how to read their eyebrows and lips… There is no instruction manual for that.”

All of that wrapped up in a story aimed at the age ten and up crowd, according to the back cover. I am considerably older than the target audience and I was enchanted. You will be, too. ( )
  TexasBookLover | Nov 17, 2015 |
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This common seat of cruelty, this dirty city, this earth of stone, this sty of men, this un-Eden, un-paradise, this fortress built by men to kill men with infection and foul deed, this unhappy populace, this little people, this stone of coal set in a suffocating stench, this cursed plot, this slum, this Lungdon.
Oylum Iremonger, 1825
To look down upon the whole of London as the birds of the air look down upon it, and see it dwindled to a mere rubbish heap.
Henry Mayhew, 1852
I like the spirit of this great London which I feel around me. Who but a coward would pass his whole life in hamlets; and for ever abandon his faculties to the eating rust of obscurity?
Charlotte Brontë, 1853
London is on the whole the most possible form of life.
Henry James, 1909
For Matilda
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There is evil come to my city.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Haiku summary
Darkness is spreading
over London, and even
the Queen is at risk.
People are turning
into objects, while objects
demand life: chaos.

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