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The Light of the Fireflies by Paul Pen
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The Light of the Fireflies

by Paul Pen

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» See also 19 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
This book was... something. It was this month’s pick for my IRL book club so it’ll be interesting to see what others thought. I found it sad and creepy and unsettling. The main narrator is a little boy who lives in a basement with his family, they don’t go out, ever, so he’s never seen the outside world. His family was disfigured in a fire and have literally walled themselves off from society.
The writing is good, it’s apparently translated from
The original Spanish. The characters don’t have names, they’re referred to as mom and sister and grandma, etc which is unusual I think. The story was troubling but kept my interest all the way through. I feel like it is one of those stories that will sit in your brain for a while. It’s a quick read and definitely an unusual book. 3.5/5 stars ⭐️ ( )
  justjoshinreads | Mar 22, 2019 |
This is a story of a family that was forced to live underground. A young boy has never known anything but living in the basement with his parents, his grandmother, and his older brother and sister. All of his siblings had been badly burned in a fire no one will talk about. They tell the boy that the basement is all there is - that there is no where else for him to go. The basement keeps them hidden and protects his family from a terrible secret that the young boy knows nothing about.



At the age of 11, the boy desperately wants to see the outside world. But he lives in fear. Fear of the "Cricket Man" and "The One Up There" that brings the family food and medicines but it never seen. When his sister has a baby and no one is telling who the father is, the young boy plans his escape. With his oldest sister's help, he finds out the truth and soon realizes he can no longer stay below ground.



This story was disturbing. This is dysfunctional family at its best, and when the big reveal about where the baby came from, why they were in the basement, and other family secrets came to life - you just are left feeling disgusted. I do like, though, how the authro went back and forth through time - to the time before the family was forced into the basement, and to the time the boy was young, and then 15 years into the future at the end of the book. So I will give credit for that.



The story is not for the faint of heart. There isn't much to like about any of the characters. Their actions are unforgivable and in the end, you just want the little boy to escape and be done with the story.



It is hard to recommend it because the story is very disturbing. So I would say skip it ( )
  JenMat | Jan 10, 2019 |
A family is imprisoned in a basement. The young son is told that he is living the best life available and that the outside will burn him as his parents, mentally damaged brother and grandmother and masked sister are. Not only is this family dysfunctional but there is no exit. The resolution is a bit too kind on the reader. ( )
  quondame | Sep 15, 2018 |
The last line of the book deserves the star.

Disturbing story. ( )
  sraelling | Aug 15, 2018 |
An incredibly well written and engrossing read with very difficult subject matter and any number of unpleasant characters making terrible decisions means this is likely to split readers. I’m glad I read it but felt like I needed a bath afterwards. Given the subject matter comparisons with Room are inevitable but not helpful – this is a very different novel.

A door loses its meaning if you don’t ever go through it. It becomes a wall

Plot in a Nutshell
Our narrator is a young boy who has lived his entire life underground in a basement with his (significantly) older siblings, his gran and his parents most of whom were badly injured in a fire prior to his birth. The plot pivots on the birth of his sister’s new baby which drives the boy to question their way of life. A second part shifts to third person and describes the events that led to the family taking to their underground bunker.

Thoughts
My first thoughts on this one is that it is an exceptionally good translation. The writing is strong and the language really pulled me into the story especially in the first part where there was a dreamy, magical quality to some of the writing that reflected the initial innocence of the narrator really well. His characterisation is good and whilst it is made clear to us that he does not fully understand all of his observations of daily life in the basement and the interactions between the other inhabitants they are helpful in building up a sense of who they are – unreliability and all.

As for the rest of the characters I really enjoyed seeing the boys perspective on each develop as the story progressed. However even before knowing the full details of the flashback it was difficult to find any of them relatable or pleasant so I found myself only ever really rooting for the boy. I also did not appreciate the decision to not give any of the characters names. This can be really effective if the intent is to either dehumanise or highlight the scale of an issue where a characters experiences are representative of a wider group but I am not sure either of these are accurate for this one and it jarred throughout.

Even whilst being touched by the writing and the boys story this was a plot line that has me pretty angry – the behaviours of the adults in his life in keeping him locked away and the lies they tell him were awful and as the reason for why they are locked away becomes clear I wanted to scream at all of them.

So to the Room compassions, yes both are set in scenarios where the main characters have been locked away – however in Room the victims and criminals were clear and there was an underlying thread of hope. This is significantly darker where the good guys and bad guys are more ambiguous and hope is harder to hold onto. ( )
  itchyfeetreader | Jun 25, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
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Paul Penprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bruni, SimonTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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