Title: Heaven Eyes
Author: David Almond
Series : No this is a stand alone book.
Other books by the same author: Skellig, Clay, The Fire Eaters
In Short: Erin, Mouse and January are running away from the Whitegates children’s home. They float down river on a raft made of doors aiming for freedom far beyond the horizon – but are soon drawn into a hidden riverside world on their doorstep. They meet the wild and gentle Grandpa, forever searching for treasure in the black mud, and Heaven Eyes who finds treasure in everything she sees.
What I thought: Initially I was a bit skeptical. I found the voice of Erin Law – the first person narrator – not quite convincing. She seemed a bit too controlled, too smoothly knowing, too adult for my complete belief in her as a young teenage girl.
But as the book progressed, this became unimportant. Like all the other books by David Almond that I have read so far this one deals with overlapping realities. He makes no effort to distinguish between the world of imagination and the world of “fact”. Magic and reality are closed tightly over each other like the petals of a budding flower, or the spiral of a young fern. Forcing them apart would bruise and destroy the story.
I was reminded of Pan’s Labyrinth. In that story the heroine uses the power of her mind to reject one world in favor of the other. In Heaven Eyes Erin learns a very different lesson. Heaven Eyes can see paradise in the damaged world around her and can change the world by looking at it.
David Almond does not structure the story according to the familiar narrative arc. After every climax one expects him to relent – but instead he turns the intensity up another notch, and then another.
His writing is very visual. Each of his books has a definite colour palette. The Fire Eaters was all burning oranges, ochres and browns. The colours of Heaven Eyes are super saturated as well – but cold. The soaking black of the Black Midden mud. The cool silvers and blues of early morning. And here and there, touches of warmth: The dangerous red of the warnings painted on the children’s raft . Light glowing through Heaven Eye’s hands.
Here is Erin, telling Granpa of her past so he can write about it in his journal:
“We came accross the river” I whispered.
“They crossed the riva” he whispered and wrote.
“We came from Whitegates in St Gabriel’s”
“They cum from Gaybrils.”
“We are damaged children, but we are happy.”
“They are hapy hapy.”
“I once lived with my Mum. We had a little house above the river. It was our Paradise.”
I smiled as my story appeared beneath his hand, weaving its way into the tale of Heaven Eyes, into the mysteries contained in his huge book.
“Write it” I breathed. “Everything is true. She was a little woman with red hair that grew like fire around her face and with brilliant green eyes…I had an Oxfam cot and pictures on the walls. We lived in that Paradise for ten short years…” He went on writing: tiny words straggling over the wide page while black dust crumbled and fell from his fingers and hair.
By the time I reached the end, I had gotten over my early misgivings. Heaven Eyes is not an easy book. The writing hovers on the edge between prose and poetry. Its intense, and sad, and hopeful.