Friday, May 25, 2007

The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick

Posted by lea at 1:10 PM
The Invention of Hugo Cabret is interesting for its combination of words and imagery to unfold its tale. It's not a conventionally written novel nor is it a graphic novel... in fact, it really defies conventional categories, and for that alone it's quite fascinating.

Selznick combines words and pictures to tell the story of Hugo Cabret, an orphaned 12 year old in Paris who believes that his life is somehow intricately tied with an automaton of a mechanical man sitting at a desk poised with pen in hand. Hugo believes that if he is able to fix it, the message of the automaton will somehow change his life forever. Passages of text are followed by pages of black and white drawings, each one moving the story forward. They're not conventional illustrations to support the written sections, but rather add a whole dimension to the book by continuing the story in its own right. For example, chase scenes through the busy Paris train station are beautifully drawn, and not one word is needed to explain what's happening.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a weighty book - a hefty 355 pages on quality paper in a hardback cover. Clearly a lot of thought has gone into its development, as it is beautifully presented and the pictures are very rich and detailed. The potential for magic is evident in every page, however I felt that the written sections let the book down. The writing was clunky and somewhat amateurish, unable to convey the sort of emotional depth the book was trying to achieve. Otherwise, I thought it was a great innovative job.

The overall feel of the book comes across like a silent movie from the 30s, which is very suited to its content, as the mystery of the automaton leads to Georges Melies, one of the earliest and most innovative French film-makers. Selznick has based this book on a fictional account of one part of Melies' life, asking the question, 'what if...'

Rating: 7.5/10
Beautifully presented and an innovative new way of storytelling.


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