Carey’s version of Pinocchio has all the strangeness and pathos of the original tale with none of the Hollywood fluff ... original, inventive and compelling ... a richly textured experience ... Although it was written before the effects of Covid-19 became known it’s an apt novel for lockdown, dealing as it does with isolation and what keeps us human when we are isolated. Readers will feel for Guiseppe, recognise the emptiness of his experience as the man in the belly of the large fish, cut off from the world and most importantly from his beloved little wooden boy, Pinocchio ... Just magical.
Pinocchio endures; why, I’m not sure ... Amid this glut, the novelist and playwright Edward Carey has had the inspired idea to cut the marionette loose and focus instead on Geppetto, the lonely old woodcutter who carves Pinocchio from an enchanted block of pine, giving him form and life — which is about as close as men get to immaculate conception, even in fantasy. Carey’s odd duck of a book is less a proper novel than a riff on the entwined themes of fatherhood and creative spark ... What keeps this book afloat, as it were, is the voice Carey gives to Geppetto. The author — whose previous books include Little, a historical novel about Madame Tussaud, and a Dickensian-style trilogy for middle grade readers — is a master of the dusty yet droll tone ... If that prose doesn’t delight you, this is not your book ... his meditations on paternal love and the ache of separation can be moving ... At other times, the slender novel set entirely inside a big stomach feels like a stunt — entertaining, clever, but a stunt nonetheless ... Carey’s dedication haunted me as I finished The Swallowed Man, and enriched it.
... a compact retelling of a familiar story from an obscure perspective ... Collodi’s tale perturbs where Disney’s soothes ... The narrator spends long months and years unmoving in the belly of the beast, but his story moves quickly in terse sentences and short paragraphs. The Pinocchio story is pure fantasy, but we never doubt that a man staving off madness with words would write this way. That said, there are occasional forays into fancifulness...I generally like this sort of thing; others may have less patience ... Carey is an extremely talented writer; if his works were bereft of his illustrations, they would be diminished, but still worth reading. But, as was the case with Little, Carey’s art is essential to his artistic project. The lonely portrait bust decorated with mussels and seaweed is sad, endearing, and a bit sinister, while the many delicately stippled illustrations in graphite and the occasional oils and watercolors would be striking even outside of their literary context ... won’t be for everyone, but its proper readers will treasure it for years to come. This is a book of the moment that will be remembered long after these days have passed.