Writing: 5/5 Plot: 3/5 Characters : 2/5
A deeply interior book with constantly catchy and cerebral writing. The narrative purports to be the thoughts of an obviously gifted and unusual seven-year old boy, primarily while he is sitting in a classroom absolutely not paying attention to the woman in charge. Harold has “tangent festivals in his head” — what a great way to put it! While I’ve read other interior novels, they often seem to focus on neuroses and over thinking, while this one is focussed purely on imagination.
I very much enjoyed the writing and the constant stream of bizarre and connected thoughts — my own brain works that way and it was fun experiencing someone else’s stream. Every thought in Harold’s head presents itself as a well-depicted bird flying through a rectangle in his head. I liked the imagery. However, to be honest, I did get a little bored with the book about half way through — the novelty wore off and I began to notice that Harold’s thoughts were more bitter, superior, and snide than comical (yes, I realize that that is the very definition of comedy for some people, but not me). I also started realizing that there was a fair amount of misogyny — his thoughts on his mother, the young, pretty girl he is obsessed with (Elizabeth), and his teacher are all pretty negative in stereotypical ways. For example, on Elizabeth: “Said the pretty very very smart, blonde girl who years later would send several men to their emotional deaths.”
A couple of good quotes:
“Harold loved living in the circus in his head. He saw his mind as a soup made up of a mixture of what was on the inside of his head and what was on the outside of his head. He considered himself a brain chef.”
“Harold thought that an echo was audio plagiarism.”
Thank you to Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published on May 16th, 2023