The Thumbnail Book Reviews

by John Q McDonald --- 18 March 2001

The Everlasting Story of Nory

by Nicholson Baker

In 1990's Room Temperature, Nicholson Baker wrote of the thoughts passing through is head as he cradled his new baby in his arms. Now nine years old, his daughter served as inspiration (the informant) for this exploration of childhood. Baker's flair for minutae is well-suited for the almost obsessive view of the world that little children have as they learn their ways in life. Kids have a natural attention to detail, as they seem to see everything so much more close-up than adults. Nory is a little nine-year-old American, spending some time at a British school. Her world is circumscribed by her social world at school and bedtime readings and family outings at home. Told from her point of view, largely in the voice you'd expect from a child, the book has an engaging style and pace. Baker has gone very far toward capturing the workings of the child's mind (though based on my own childhood recollections, I didn't entirely relate to Nory, but did relate to her little brother). She is a sensitive girl, and she has a girlish compassion that makes her very likable. She cares about an outcast girl at school, and about little creatures she learns about. And Nory is a great story-teller. She has an elaborate imagination and a vivid dream life. She is always weaving everalasting stories. The book is witty, amusing and very engaging. In the end, however, the voice of a child can get a little old in a novel-length story. Baker's own obsessive attention to detail is more subdued here. But it ends up being a gentle tale. And an accomplishment in observation.

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