Synopsis: In Victorian Age Eddie Dickens – no relation to our dear and beloved Charles – is sent to live with his Mad Uncle Jack and Even Madder Aunt Maud at their house Awful End when his parents contract an illness that has them go yellow and crinkly around the edges. The journey to the weirdly-named manor is just the first of many an odd and exciting adventures young Eddie Dickens experiences.
What a dragon thinks: I used to possess a German copy when I was about 10 and I simply didn’t understand it – it was too weird? Unfunny? Boring? It was a birthday present from my best friend if I remember correctly and she said it was supposed to be funny. Well, I clearly didn’t get the humour. So, now, ten years later I have stumbled upon the same book again and decided to give it another chance – with quite the different outcome…
Well, I … er … where to start is the question at hand. I love the book, that is for sure. I think I have not been ready as a child for the dark and queer humour the tale brings out so brilliantly. I simply didn’t understand it back then, as opposed to now where I downright adore it! Perhaps English natives find it funnier as kids or maybe it was just me who has not been ready for true British humour. So you can imagine this for yourselves without indulging in a read that might not be your cup of tea: take Roald Dahl and mix his style with Terry Pratchett. There you go!
Language is explored to the darkest corners: wordplays, funnily arranged sentences to make the reader pause and rethink them, only for the author clearing them up immediately by giving a short lesson. These interruptions don’t impede the flow of the story in the least – if anything, they are funny comments which make the tale all the more interesting. Also, the many times a character breaks the fourth wall and acknowledges to be in a book or takes a written description too seriously:
He took a seat opposite the woman.
“Put that seat back!” she screamed, so Eddie did as he was told and sat down.
The storyline is pretty straightforward, once cut down to its frame, easy to comprehend and simple if I may say so. However, with all these deviations, detours, diversions, all this straying, wandering and frolicking off the path, the author takes us on to a journey so mad, you are not sure whether to frown or laugh. I certainly was highly confused 78 per cent of the time devouring this exceptionally odd tale but it was funny. Really funny.
What makes it so brilliant are these lovable characters who except for Eddie are all completely and utterly bonkers. Their antics and odd habits soon become important traits and conjure a smile on the reader’s face. I don’t think this story would have worked if all of the characters had been sane. Three quarters of the book wouldn’t have happened – couldn’t have happened because of the lack of madness.
What is more, the author honours us with glorious drawings that pepper the pages. Uniquely drawn, some make no sense at all until you reach the specific paragraph explaining and you find yourself thinking: Why, of course! How else could it have been?
Since it was a collection of all three Eddie Dickens’s books I shall vote for the best of the three which is really hard because each and every one of them is unique in its own sense. However, I have to say that I liked the first and third the best. In my opinion the story and supporting characters in the second book were not as good as in the other books.
Favourite Characters: Mad Uncle Jack, Even Madder Aunt Maud, Malcom/Sally the Stoat
Conclusion: A surreal Victorian tale full of adventure and fun – and madness! I adore this, even if most of the time my brow was in creases and I am afraid damage has been done. Still, I am eager to read Mr. Ardagh’s other book as well: Further Adventures of Eddie Dickens. Absolutely brilliant.
Mad Uncle Jack wanted to use the bathroom before he went and, being unfamiliar with the house, he found it difficult to get his horse up the stairs without knocking one or two family portraits off the wall.
- Author: Philip Ardagh
- Title: The Eddie Dickens Trilogy
- Illustrator: David Roberts
- First book: Awful End (p. 1-129)
- Second book: Dreadful Acts (p. 131-269)
- Third book: Terrible Times (p. 277-429)
- Pages: 429
- Publishing House: Faber & Faber
- Date of publication: 04/08/11
- ISBN: 978-0-571-27469-7
Cover source: Faber & Faber Publisher