first_imgWhile essentially a children’s book, The Ingenious Edgar Jones will delight children and adults alike with its quirky tale of a porter’s son in nineteenth century Oxford. Liz Garner’s style is fluid and unctuous, and the whole book feels pleasantly like a warm breeze blown through your mind. It is even more enjoyable when you are intimately acquainted with the landmarks that form an intrinsic element to the story; one of the most evocative passages is a description of the view from the roof of the partially-completed University Museum of Natural History, with the Oxford we inhabit now taking shape amid the remnants of the medieval city. Comparisons with Pullman’s His Dark Materials sequence are inevitable with such a book, but in reality entirely unnecessary. Liz Garner’s Oxford is firmly grounded in reality – the description of the porter’s walk to work from Jericho to New College is accurate in every detail, as any resident of the city will be able to attest. There is no attempt to encompass a similarly philosophical sphere, and the forays into evolutionary science and architechture are meticulously well-researched whilst remaining brief enough and simple enough to be completely subservient to the plot. The character of Edgar himself, a boy strangely gifted in ways adults are seemingly unable to understand, is just petulant and arrogant enough to be intensely likeable, while his parents are, in their different ways, equally blind to the progress and innovation that their son tries to drag into their lives.The only disappointing moment in this book comes at the very end, when Edgar has escaped from prison only to discover that his family has disintegrated and his one passion, the Museum, no longer needs him. It isn’t that you wish that everything could turn out well, quite the contrary; it’s just that you wish it didn’t end in such a predictably ambivalent, cliché-ridden way. Other than this final let-down, this is a stunning novel, worthy of the very highest praise, and most definitely worth breaking free of the weekly grind of academic reading to enjoy.by Caroline Cramptonlast_img