Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Unforgotten Coat, by Frank Cottrell Boyce

It's a memorable day for Julie when two Mongolian boys show up unannounced at her school.  While they struggle with the language, the boys quickly assert themselves as different and Julie is entranced.  The older boy Chingis announces that Julie will be their "good guide" and help them understand their new home.  Julie is pleased to accept.  However, the younger boy Nergui is afraid that a demon is after them and the boys (with their new guide) must find a way to escape Nergui's nemesis.  Told in flashback and through a series of Polaroids, Boyce lays out a story that is both magical and yet very down-to-earth, ultimately exploring the immigrant experience.

For a very brief book (under 100 pages, with many photographs), I found it strangely moving.  The story lives on minimalism, with Boyce preferring to do less with his words and more with the images.  The book's design (like a notebook with lined-paper pages) and enigmatic photographs are striking and integral to the story.  The overall product is effective and original.

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