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Friday, October 15, 2010

cover of Sunshine

When Sunshine is getting ready to go into battle with Con, and expecting to die (for about the third time in this book), she thinks about what to do with the two days she has left-- and one of the options that crosses her mind is reading:

Reread your favorite novel, the one you only let yourself anymore when you're sick in bed. I might have enjoyed this more, since I'm never sick, if death didn't seem like a very bad trade-off.
This caught my eye because I was actually sick in bed re-reading Sunshine. I don't know if that makes it my favorite book (it is definitely up there), but this book was such a wonderful, complete distraction from my own misery to escape into Sunshine's crazy world (and in particular her humorous, self-deprecating attitude that comes through in the narrative as she provides commentary). It feels like such a full, real world too-- populated with fascinating characters, and details of slang and history and myths, and since we get everything filtered through Sunshine's perspective, we don't know which myths are true and which aren't. Sunshine lives in a dangerous world that I'm not sure I'd want to visit-- I'd love to sample her cinnamon rolls and crazy decadent desserts at Charlie's coffeehouse, but I'm not sure I'd want to navigate the dangers of Old Town to get there.

Reading it again, I see how this is a a story of becoming, growing up-- even though she is trying very much to be her "mother's daughter", she's discontented with her life as the baker at Charlie's coffeehouse. She has to face up to the heritage of the sorcerer father that she only knew when she was little, she has to draw on the transmuting that her grandmother taught her when she was younger-- and she has to discover a lot of things on her own. As her wise landlady Yolande tells her, maybe her grandmother knew that Sunshine had unique gifts and needed to be left alone so she could discover them-- rather than being taught that certain things were impossible.

As prevalent as vampires are these days in popular culture, it's hard not to imagine how the world of Sunshine might be portrayed in a movie. These vampires aren't sexy like most of the ones that we see in TV and movies; McKinley takes great pains to make clear how dangerous and alien and completely other they are, that just being in the room with them is almost overwhelming (that sense of prey, hunter). These "suckers" have an eerie, inhuman grace; they speak strangely, their eyes are magnetic, hypnotic. They can pass for human if they want to-- but Con, who makes an imposing vampire, makes a sort of ordinary, ugly man. But the battle between Con and Bo, which in a way all boils down to Con's statement that "there are different ways of being what we are"-- it seems like this would make for an amazing counterpoint to the many other kinds of vampires we see everywhere. It would probably be pretty hard to translate the book into a movie because so much of the book is about Sunshine-- her voice, her irreverent attitude, her take on the crazy, dire situations she finds herself in. But I can't help thinking this would make an amazing movie if some talented script-writers and film-makers were involved. Maybe that's my way of wishing to share this amazing, wonderful book with people who might not pick up a book but would go see a movie about vampires...

Author:Robin McKinley
Date published:2003
Genre:Horror / Fantasy
Number of pages:405
Notes:repeat reading


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