Vee is on a forced mental health hiatus until 16th June. See you then!

Review of The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

by - January 16, 2012

Orphan Hugo Cabret lives in a wall. His secret home is etched out in the crevices of a busy Paris train station. Part-time clock keeper, part-time thief, he leads a life of quiet routine until he gets involved with an eccentric, bookish young girl and an angry old man who runs a toy booth in the station. The Invention of Hugo Cabret unfolds its cryptic, magical story in a format that blends elements of picture book, novel, graphic novel, and film. Caldecott Honor-winning author-illustrator Brian Selznick has fashioned an intricate puzzle story that binds the reader like a mesmerist's spell.

I read this book a couple of years ago and completely fell in love with it. The grainy illustrations, the rich black borders, the amazing smell coming from the book all completely won me over and it's stood proudly on my shelf ever since. Today, I decided to pick it back up again, partly due to wanted to give it its deserved review and partly because I'm going to see the movie in a couple of days and want to have the overall story fresh in my mind when I pick the movie to pieces and point out exactly what they did wrong.

Admittedly, this book isn't for everyone. It's told in the style of a simple child's bedtime story, with a twist in the tale and a happy ending, of course. The character development isn't crazy and the overall feel is very simplistic, but I quite enjoyed that. Too much character development wouldn't have worked well the story and as 70% of it is pictures anyway, I'd rather Brian Selznick took the time to tell us more of the story, rather than describing the exact colour of Hugo's trousers.
The story in the background of this is the beginnings of Cinema, and throughout the book there's pictures from scenes of old movies, a guy hanging from a clock and the famous train one. You know the one.
The story is set in France, so there's a lot of places and names I have difficulty pronouncing, but as far as I remember from Anna and the French Kiss, the French are heavily into their movies so naturally France is a good place to set this book. There's not a whole lot of France to see though, as most of this story is set in a train station, where Hugo lives. As the story progresses, we find out how he ended up living in the train station as well as many other secrets.

Final thoughts: This is a great book if you're looking for a quick read, despite the sheer size of it (over 500 pages). I'd definitely recommend it to people who like illustrations like me, as the illustrations through this are mesmerising and beautifully drawn. I admit, I did almost shed a tear when I finished the story, as I was enjoying it so much!


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  1. I'm so glad I clicked on this - I'm in the middle of compiling a list of books that mention film and cinema! Thank you for the great review. The book sounds brilliant!

    1. Ooh, I saw your tweet about it this morning and never thought of Hugo!


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