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The Stolen Child: A Novel by Keith Donohue
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The Stolen Child: A Novel (original 2006; edition 2006)

by Keith Donohue

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2,0641073,238 (3.77)137
Member:martitia
Title:The Stolen Child: A Novel
Authors:Keith Donohue
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Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:world-building, fantasy, character-driven, strong sense of place, changlings, identity, loss

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The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue (2006)

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Showing 1-5 of 105 (next | show all)
If I could register no stars, I would. It was a boring book hiding under the ruse of being a fantasy. The story read like an autobiography of a man who thought mostly in prose. In bad prose at that. I've read better and this is not worth it. ( )
  Rosenstern | Sep 14, 2014 |
This book, written from twin viewpoints, is a fascinating "inside look" at the myth & mythos of the changelings. One viewpoint is from Henry Day, stolen & living among the changeling clan, & the other is from the viewpoint of Gustav Ungerling, who was himself stolen by the changelings over 100 years prior, & exchanged with & became the "new" Henry Day. I'm not going to give any more away, but if you love the old fairy tales, NOT the Disney versions, but the OLD ones, back when they were a lot darker, you'll enjoy this. It's also written from an all too human standpoint, & places in this book will really touch you.... ( )
1 vote Lisa.Johnson.James | Apr 11, 2014 |
Henry Day was only 7 years old when he was stolen by fairies and replaced by a fairy who had changed over to replace him. Henry soon forgot his human name and was called "Aniday" by his fellow changelings, who tried to help him forget his life as a human child. This book is told in alternating chapters from the perspectives of Henry (trying to fit in as the human replacement) and Aniday (trying to adjust to life as a fairy).

If you don't think too hard about the impossibilities of the story, the book is much more enjoyable. I had a hard time wrapping my mind around how the fairies could exist through the harsh winter when they still had human needs such as eating and the need for warmth. However, when I could try to let this go and just focus on the story, it was engaging and enchanting. While not a classic "fairy tale", it was an entertaining story with enough twists to move the story along. ( )
1 vote voracious | Oct 9, 2013 |
This book follows two intertwined lives, alternating chapters written in the perspectives of the two people. The first chapter is from the perspective of a changeling, describing how he switched places with a 7-year-old child named Henry Day. As time passes, this impostor Henry tries his best to appear like any other human and not draw unwanted attention. He is able to fool many people, but not everyone, including Henry's father, really believes that he's who he appears to be. Settling into his new life, Henry demonstrates amazing skill as a pianist, and he becomes consumed with a desire to find out more about his former human self, the one from whom his musical skills come. When he is older, he eventually marries and has a child, but he can never quite erase the fear that changelings will come and take the life he has built for himself away.

The chapters written from the perspective of changeling Henry alternate with chapters written from the perspective of Aniday. When the changeling replaced Henry Day, the real Henry Day was taken into the woods and reborn as Aniday, a new changeling. Aniday tries to hold on to his past and the boy he once was, always longing to return to his family. The older changelings he lives with tell him that he can never go back to his own family - eventually, it will be his turn to find a child to replace, and then he'll get to go back to the world of humans again. Aniday gradually gets to know and care for many of the changelings, especially a female changeling named Speck. Although the changelings can't die of old age or diseases, tragedy still befalls the group, which rapidly grows smaller as certain members die or leave. Aniday has to figure out what to do about his budding feelings of love for Speck and his obsession with going home.

I don't think this is something I would normally have read, but my book discussion group chose it as the book for the month. I found the initial chapters fascinating and read them quickly, but it eventually got harder for me to stay interested. Part of my problem was that I loved Aniday's part of the book, but I didn't really like Henry's.

Aniday was a great character. I could understand his obsession with going home, and I was actually kind of surprised that he wasn't angry and resentful of the changelings who took him aways from his family. Even though he eventually wanted to leave, Aniday didn't keep himself distant from all the changelings. He got to know them all as much as they would let him - few of them ever wanted to talk about what their lives were like back when they were human - and he got as much joy out of his life as a changeling as he could. He connected the most with Speck and discovered his favorite place, the public library, with her help. His love for Speck felt genuine and allowed the reader to get to know her better than any other character besides Aniday or Henry.

Henry, on the other hand, was much more focused on himself, despite the fact that there were many more people in his life than there were in Aniday's. Although he loved several people, including his mother and his wife, as much as he was able, it didn't feel as though he was able to love very deeply. As a result, the reader never really got to know the people in Henry's life very well, other than as beings he either loved or didn't. While Speck stuck in my mind, Tess, Henry's wife, didn't, because Henry never really seemed to talk with her about important things. A big part of the problem was probably that Henry couldn't confide the most important secret in his life, his existence as a former changeling, to anybody. He couldn't tell his parents that he replaced their 7-year-old son, and he could never bring himself to tell Tess anything, which also meant that he couldn't tell her anything about looking into Gustav Ungerland (his former self) and his reasons for doing so. He, like Aniday, was bound by his past, but because he couldn't/didn't confide that past to anybody, his relationships were much more superficial than Aniday's.

I also wasn't entirely a fan of the book's fairly open ending. Donohue leaves it to the reader to decide if Aniday and Henry end up with lives that are happier and more satisfying than what they had had throughout the book. I like to assume that things go well for them both, and I think it's reasonable to think that things may go well for Aniday, but I was frustrated that Donohue took what I percieved as the easy way out when it came to Henry and his relationship with his family. After Henry falls in love with Tess, he constantly debates telling her about being a changeling, and the fact that he doesn't and is therefore forced to lie to her about some things or just not tell her things puts cracks in their marriage - Henry doesn't seem to really notice the cracks, but Aniday did, and so did I. Will Henry ever tell Tess about himself, or will he keep a large part of himself a secret from her for the rest of their lives? I don't know, and I can't help but feel that it was a bit wimpy of Donohue not to settle that issue.

(Original review, with read-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.) ( )
1 vote Familiar_Diversions | Sep 24, 2013 |
What's missing is any reason for the whole thing to begin with. To change places with a child so that child changes places again after a time with another child seems very futile. The two individual lives seem even more futile as they spend their new lives obsessing about the change. ( )
  MarthaJeanne | Jul 16, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Keith Donohueprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Paris, AndyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Woodman, JeffNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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We look at the world once, in childhood. The rest is memory. -"Nostos" by Louise Gluck
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For Dorothy and Thomas, wish you were here
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Don't call me a fairy.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385516169, Hardcover)

Editorial Reviews
Keith Donohue's sparkling debut novel was first presented by the publisher as a "bedtime story for adults." Intrigued by comparisons to Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell and The Confessions of Max Tivoli, we dipped into the book, only to find ourselves transported into a strange and wonderfully rich story--a perfect blend of literary fantasy and realism that kept us captivated until the very end. Find out what our top reviewers have to say about The Stolen Child, and hear from Keith Donohue about about the origins of the story below. --The Editors

Early Buzz From Amazon.com Top Reviewers
We queried our top 100 reviewers as of April 6, and asked them to read The Stolen Child and share their thoughts. We've included these early reviews below in the order they were received. For the sake of space, we've only included a brief excerpt of each reviewer's response, but each review is available for reading in its entirety by clicking the "Read the review" link. Enjoy!

Harriet Klausner: "Keith Donohue writes a great novel that will have readers debating the impact of nurturing and naturing as both Henrys adapt and adjust, but never feel whole. This is a fantastic fantasy that readers will enjoy immensely." Read Harriet Klausner's review

W. Boudville: "An updated and realistic Peter Pan. Keith Donohue has produced an exquisite first novel. Exceedingly polished prose with a compelling and original twist on a classic theme." Read W. Boudville's review

John Kwok: "Inspired by the W. B. Yeats poem "The Stolen Child", Keith Donohue's novel of the same title is a fine addition to the fantasy literature genre, yet told with the ample realism one expects from great works of mainstream literature." Read John Kwok's review

A. Joseph Haschka: "The Stolen Child is a fairy tale for adults that transcends standard fare. An ingeniously crafted tale about hobgoblins, is a coming of age story and one about identities both lost and found." Read A. Joseph Haschka's review

Robert Morris: "Donohue brilliantly explores all manner of themes, many of which are found in the most popular fairy tales and nursery rhymes (e.g. fear of separation from one’s family, especially from parents). " Read Robert Morris's review

Donald Mitchell: "What would it like to be adopted and have your head full of fantasies? It might feel very much like this story. However, I think a story about an adopted child without the parallel changeling world would have been more interesting. Perhaps I lack a sense of romance and sympathy for the strivings of the dispossessed. If so, the fault is mine, not that of the story." Read Donald Mitchell's review

Joanna Daneman: "I found the writing stunningly simple and gripping. Within minutes, I was completely drawn into this book. I am a very finicky fiction reader, and I was delighted by Donohue's incredibly ability to make sensory experiences real, to make conversations flow naturally and logically--yet leading to surprise after surprise." Read Joanna Daneman's review

Charles Ashbacher: "The book moves back and forth between the two Henry's, how the substitute Henry handles his assimilation into human society and how the original adapts to the society that kidnapped him. It is an interesting story, as both "boys" have different perspectives on the life of a "growing" boy." Read Charles Ashbacher's review

Lawyeraau: "This haunting and beautifully written debut novel had me compulsively turning its pages. I simply could not put it down! The author has created a fantasy world that exists on the cusp of the consciousness of humans. It is a world that is the stuff of fairy tales, only the author has turned it into one that is fitting for adults." Read Lawyeraau's review

Gail Cooke: "It has been called magical, beguiling, remarkable, and vividly imagined. The Stolen Child is all of that, and much more. Keith Donohue's debut novel is an intriguing mix of imagination and reality, a story that reminds us of the joys of being human and the transcendency of love." Read Gail Cooke's review

Grady Harp: "Longing to belong is but one of the essential facts of life that author Keith Donohoe weaves into his debut novel, The Stolen Child, a stunning work of fiction that brings alive an ages old myth involving faeries, hobgoblins, changelings and magical transformations to confront contemporary readers with food for thought about being careful of what you wish for!" Read Grady Harp's review

Lee Carlson: "The story is as much a celebration of memory as it is in belaboring its mysteries. Every character acts in concert to remind the reader of the subtlety of memory along with its power." Read Lee Carlson's review

Daniel Jolley: "Keith Donohue has brought forth a magical debut novel full of insights into childhood and adulthood and the seemingly endless longing that largely defines both. He conjures a world of ancient legend and places it on the outskirts of modern civilization, thereby casting an insightful eye upon both." Read Daniel Jolley's review

An Autobiographical Note from Keith Donohue

My dad used to call me, the middle child of seven, "the youngest of the oldest, and the oldest of the youngest." Being dead smack in the middle of a large Irish American family, it is no wonder that I have felt like a changeling myself now and again. We were just like the Kennedys, without the money or the power.

We lived in a cramped yellow house at the bottom of a steep hill in Pittsburgh. Climbing that street as a small child was like hiking up a mountain, but it instilled a sense of ambition and determination. In the mid-Sixties, we moved to Southern Maryland, to a town so small that there was but a single commercial crossroads with a High's Dairy Store across from Ben Franklin's Five and Dime Store. There were still enough woods and swampland available to allow for hours of exploration and getting lost nearly every day.

On a whim, I went back to Pittsburgh for college and began to write in earnest at Duquesne University, studying under the Pennsylvania state laureate poet Sam Hazo, and putting myself through school through two creative writing scholarships. My dream was to be a novelist, but there weren't any openings.

Upon graduation, and being unable to find a job in the city, I moved back to the Washington area to work for the National Endowment for the Arts, answering the mail for the chairman of the agency. Within four years, I was writing speeches for a new and different chairman, a job I held for the eight years that coincided with what some have called the culture wars. I wrote for the freedom of expression crowd.

Off hours, I went back to school, earned a doctorate in English literature, specializing in modern Irish literature. After stints working on federal child care policy and as a cultural policy analyst, I circled round again to that steep hill and wrote The Stolen Child, figuring that if I was to become that novelist, the time had come to stop dreaming and simply climb.

I'm married, have four children, and am back working at a small embattled agency that gives grants to archives across the country to preserve and publish the records of the American experience. In my spare time, I'm writing another novel about myths in America.

The Story Behind the Story

The very first image that came to me when I began The Stolen Child was of a young boy hiding in a hollow tree, face pressed against its wooden ribs, determined not to be found by anyone. His defiant wish to be alone struck me as a universal gesture--a striking out for independence that children make when frustrated by the confines of childhood. When the changelings come and get that boy, he becomes a victim of his own imagination. He is stolen away by his own worst nightmare.

As concerned as I was about the boy hiding in the tree, I also knew that I wanted to write about an adult struggling to remember the dreams of childhood. He had to be as trapped and frustrated by the strictures of his adulthood. And in order for any drama to exist, these two emotional states must clash.

That's why there are two narrators telling two intertwined stories--one adult trying to remember his "stolen" childhood and one child trapped in time at age seven. Since the conflict is primarily between the grown-up Henry Day and the child Aniday, the story needed some way to make both characters alive, have parallel and mirroring lives, joys and challenges, and allow them to confront one another. I needed some way to make the metaphorical be literal.

That's where the changeling folk myth came in. Changelings and faeries have been around for eons in virtually every culture. They are the mysterious beings flitting around the corner of the imagination, and in many places, faeries and changelings have the reputation of breaking into homes and replacing babies and young children with replicas. Or luring children away from their homes to come live in the wild and become part of their unaging magical tribe. The child is stolen by the faeries, and the faery changeling "becomes" the child.

In reality, the legend grew from real human predicaments dealing primarily with the inability of some parents to care for children with a failure to thrive. They explained away the unwanted children by claiming that they were not human at all, that the changelings had come and stolen their child and left one of their own in its place. Having a changeling rather than a real human made it much easier for parents to get rid of such a child.

Through our wild imaginations and fear of the dark and unknown, the changeling myth evolved into a spooky story. Careful, kid, or the changelings will come get you. Or, conversely, as an explanation for why you're so different from all the rest of the kids; you're actually a changeling.
"The Stolen Child" by William Butler Yeats, is one of the more well-known literary uses of folk legend to comment on the real world. Reading the poem, we get caught up in those wonderful images of "hidden faery vats" and the faeries "whispering to the slumbering trout," but then Yeats gives us, in the final stanza, an idea of the family life that the stolen child is leaving behind. But away he goes, "from a world more full of weeping than he can understand."

How perfect for a story about what it's like to be seven and to remember being seven.

So I asked myself: What if we make the changelings real? What if we have the boy out in the woods with a band of faeries, the flip side of the real world? What if he is replaced by a changeling who can grow up and become the adult, who fools everyone into thinking that he is indeed the real Henry Day, when he knows all along that the authentic Henry is out there in the woods?

That's when the fun began. The two narrators' stories spiraling around and interlocking like a Celtic knot. The changeling who steals Henry Day's life gradually realizes that he, too, was a real human boy once upon a time. He, too, was a stolen child and must struggle to dredge up that childhood and deal with his dreams and his own weeping world. The real Henry Day--now known as Aniday among the faeries--faces what it means to be a part of a fading folk myth at the latter half of the 20th century, and the struggle that all children have coming to terms with their mortality, leaving family behind, and leaving childhood behind in order to find some speck of love, happiness, and the road ahead.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:34:14 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Stolen from his family by changelings, Henry Day is given the name "Aniday" by the ageless and magical beings, who replace him with another child who takes his place with his parents, a young boy who possesses an extraordinary gift of music.

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