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Sunday, 17 November 2013

Review: The Lost Journals of Benjamin Tooth by Mackenzie Crook


My name is Benjamin Tooth. This is my journal.

One day I will be remembered as the greatest scientist that the world has ever known and so it is my duty to mankind to record my thoughts that future generations are able to study the progress of a genius.

I am eleven years old.

These are the recently discovered journals of Benjamin Tooth: alchemist, inventor and discoverer of the Windvale sprites. They chronicle his journey of scientific discovery from pompous boy to mad old man in his pursuit of the sprites on Windvale Moor. The sprites hold the key to eternal life, and Tooth is determined to capture it.

I was very fortunate to be sent The Lost Journals of Benjamin Tooth and its predecessor, The Windvale Sprites, both by Mackenzie Crook, in the same package by the lovely people at Faber. The Windvale Sprites was published two years ago, and received many rave reviews for its humour, charm and old school story telling magic. It told the story of Asa, a young boy who spots the remains of an unusual creature after the great storm that hit the UK back in 1987. His curiosity suitably piqued, Asa embarks on a mission to find more of these otherworldly creatures, and along the way he discovers the lost journals of one Benjamin Tooth, an eccentric resident of Mereton back in the eighteenth century. This latest publication from Mackenzie Crook and Faber, is that journal.

The Lost Journals of Benjamin Tooth is, as the title would suggest, written in the form of a journal or diary. It begins on Monday 18th April 1768, with eleven year old Benjamin confidently proclaiming that 'one day I will be remembered as the greatest scientist that the world has ever known' before going on to tell us that 'Today for supper I ate of a buttock of ham with plum pudding and greens'. Whilst wandering on Windvale Moor, Benjamin spots what he believes to be an exceptionally large species of dragonfly. When he returns to make more drawings for his teacher he has a run in with the seemingly barking mad Farley Cupstart, a particularly odd and potentially dangerous character, and Benjamin's interests in the Moor are multiplied a hundredfold.

Benjamin's journal continues on to 1780, in which time his life sees many ups and downs, and yet through it all Benjamin never loses his hunger for notoriety in the field of science. Through his journal we are introduced to a number of colourful characters, all of whom help take the edge off Benjamin's arrogance. He is not, you see, a particularly likeable character at times, so as a reader it is hard to root for him, but this doesn't matter as it is the sheer conceit and haughtiness that permeates through his writing that makes it so funny for us to follow.

When I first received an email from Faber asking if I would be interested in copies of these two books, I was told that it probably wouldn't matter which order I read them. I decided to read the Journals first, and then moved on to The Windvale Sprites, and I really enjoyed reading them in this order. However, I think the stories would have been just as enjoyable if I had read them the other way around, so it really doesn't matter which one you pick up first. But please do pick them up and read them - they are both funny, whimsical stories full of old school, almost Blyton-esque adventure, but given a dark and occasiionally grusome edge.

Not only is Mackenzie Crook an accomplished comic actor (his Gareth Keenan is one of my all time favourite sitcom characters), but with these two books he also demonstrates that he has a talent for writing as well. But that's not the limit to his talent either as both stories are accompanied by lovely black and white illustrations drawn by the author himself.

The Lost Journals of Benjamin Tooth was published in hardcover by Faber on 7 November, on the same day that The Windvale Sprites was published in a paperback edition. You can find out more about The Lost Journals of Benjamin Tooth over at http://benjamintooth.co.uk where you can also find details of an exciting competition. Come back here later in the week for your chance to win a signed copy of The Windvale Sprites.





2 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed these too and read them in the same order as you :)

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  2. Oh I love the sound of these :)

    ReplyDelete