The 10 P.M. Question. A Novel. By Kate de Goldi
12 year old Frankie Parsons is a worry wart and a complete hypochondriac to boot. He'll create unlikely scenarios and waste energy fretting over them. He hooks up with his mum at 10 p.m. each night and she does her best to provide reassuring answers to his troubling questions. Such is the nighttime routine of Frankie Parsons. Free spirited new girl Sydney arrives on the scene and they become the best of friends. Sydney is boldly curious about Frankie's family life and he worries she'll ask the dreaded question: why his mother hasn't left the house in nine years.
What drew me to the book
I've decided to read more YA fiction. Two reasons. The first, so I can recommend cool titles to the students who use the library in which I work. The second, because there are some YA gems that I often enjoy more than fully fledged senior titles. A third that has just come to me: it is set in New Zealand.
Call me shallow but I'm one of those people who are attracted to a book by its cover and the design of this one drew me in along with its intriguing title (set in the most lovely typography). It shows a colourful illustration of a bird, a recurring motif in the novel, on a distressed whitewashed background. I love the texture of a distressed finish. My paperback copy also boasts fab endpaper in a cool geometric pattern. I'm a lover of bold prints, especially geometric patterns, and the odd splash of neon is a huge bonus.
The pages of the book are lusciously soft too. It really is a fabulous book to hold.
I bet you think I'm mad!
You know when you read the first few lines of a book to see if you'll like it? I was hooked from the first line. More so on the second on learning there was no milk for Frankie's 'Just Right cereal' and even more so in line three: 'There was no Go-Cat for The Fat Controller'. I just knew I was going to get on with a book that had a cat called The Fat Controller. I like to flatter myself that if I were to pen a novel, my writing style wouldn't be too dissimilar to de Goldi's. Who knows? I just gelled with her style.
Did I like The 10 P.M. Question?
I didn't like it; I loved it. Oh Frankie you little love. You worried you weren't normal but I bet loads of people who read your story can relate to your inner struggles. More people than you can imagine. I certainly did (I can be a worry wart too) and I loved you for it. Every page of your story reveals more about your amazing, warm family and I wanted to jump right into your world and soak up and be a part of your family's loving quirks. Quirks that make you and your family unique, but which every family has, thus rendering you normal. Whatever normal is, as your lovely mother told you one evening. Honestly, don't worry about it, we are all part of a collective madness and I say enjoy what makes you unique.
What I adored more than anything about this book is that Kate de Goldi, wonderful author, does not label her characters. She could easily have portrayed Ma, for example, as having such and such mental disorder. She could say Frankie has behavioural problems and X, Y & Z condition. But she doesn't. She allows them to simply be the people they are. How refreshing and freeing is that in a world where everything and everyone has a label? (i.e. me: struggling single mother of one - aaaagh). Kate de Goldi celebrates who they are. No one is judgmental in this beautiful book; everyone simply just is. They are accepted and no one probes into why Ma had a breakdown. She just did, it's being dealt with, and that's that.
And I applaud you for that.
There are far too many cool instances in this book that stood out for me and made me laugh, want to cry and hug the characters, or say, oh yes, I do that too. So here are...
...The Things I Loved About The 10 P.M. Question
1. Uncle George
- Omg what a cool name for a dad. Along with Ray Davies and Fat Controller for the Parsons' pet Beagle and cat.
- The rat liver and eyeball incident and how we learned that "...in the early morning and late evening Uncle George often wandered around the house wearing nothing but the tee (shirt)". Honestly Uncle G is the coolest of dads and it cracked me up that he let it all hang loose in his 'bling man' t-shirt.
- Heavy metal music wars with Louie, Frankie's older brother.
- Card games and a drop of whiskey with the aunties.
2. The Aunties
- The three overweight and adorably eccentric elderly aunties who have a busy but regimented schedule of social activities to keep them occupied in their retirement. Smoking cheroots and going to the movies one afternoon a week in their Morris Oxford. Going to Frankie's for dinner and card games every second Thursday. Using their ample bosom (I can't help but see them as one entity) as a shelf for plates of food.
- The heartrending moment when Frankie's anxieties reach boiling point and he realises no one else but the Aunties will do for confiding his problems to. Bless you Frankie.
- Like Frankie, I too don't know what a Shibboleth is. What is it?
3. Ma & Gordana
- Mistake cake - I want a mum who runs a baking business from home and fills each room with the comforting smells of delicious bakes. I especially want to try Mistake Cake.
- Ma's love of Russian literature and the references to Dostoyevsky, Chekov et al. I too love the intense drama and romance of Russian literature and the deep resonance of the language.
- The heart-to-heart with Gordana in her room. I'll say no more other than the moment is touching.
- Ma's music box with the one armed ballerina.
- The mysterious lady-painting in Ma's room. Who is she?
4. Frankie (in no particular order)
- The bus ticket installation. A genius work of art that I want to see!
- Chilun vocab. A mixture of Russian and Latin that only Frankie and his best mate Gigs can understand. This book truly is Bonga Swetso.
- Gigs' Fimo Fox army. Another moment of genuis.
- Frankie's earthquake kit. Comprises cat food and confectionary supplies in the event of an emergency.
- Story times. Harold and the Purple Crayon*
- Offloading worries to Robert Plant and wearing a Wolves scarf.
- Frankie's ability to draw and his love of drawing birds. I had a thing for drawing birds as a kid. My favourite was the barn owl.
- Work experience with the gregarious Louie. Driving in Louie's van describing people they know as birds.
- Having a Honey moment.
- Sydney's clothes. The fact she makes them herself and loves wearing a bold triangle print.
- The zig-zag walk routine.
|* I now want to read Harold and The Purple Crayon!|
He picked up Ma's book and examined it. Eugene Onegin by Pushkin. Another Russian. Ma had a thing for the Russians. Uncle George said if she ever met anyone called Vladimir she'd be off. p.59
~ * ~
Sydney poured forth a torrent of questions: Hadn't they ever had husbands? What was their house like? Did they dye their hair? Where did they get their clothes? How come they were so fat?
"It's because they eat so much," said Gigs. "Their dinners are massive. Feasts. It's like the Romans. Awesome." Sydney said she was coming with them next time they visited. Definitely. p.67
~ * ~
Darius Littlejohn whose middle name was Mary, for heaven's sake. p.103
One last note. I applaud Kate de Goldi for writing her books in a walk-in wardrobe. What better motivation than treating yourself to a pair of heels could a girl need for crafting her next bestseller?
If I were a bird (of the feathered variety) what would I be? It's been plaguing me since I finished reading the 10 P.M. Question and I like the fact I'm left with a little bit of Frankie to think about.