Opening line: “There was a great deal of shouting and then a shot.”
A strict curfew is in place in the dystopian city of C; one simply does not stay out “too late”. Free speech and music are banned and secret police prowl the streets. William Drysdale, former concert violinist, now works as an epitaphorist for a stone mason. His wife disappeared some years earlier, leaving him to raise his mute daughter alone. But when William learns some news that keeps him out after dark, Molly is left in the care of her neighbours. This elderly couple used to run a puppet theatre and help Molly to pass the night and make sense of their cruel world by putting on a puppet show. Enchanting, and heartbreaking, this is a beautiful novel.
The Curfew by Jesse Ball is the happiest depressing book that I’ve read. I was at times reminded of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. The tragedy of the story is made all the more poignant by the touching and playful relationship the father and daughter have despite the harshness of the tyrannical regime. Riddles at the breakfast table, a game of being elephants — the Drysdales found happiness in the small things of life. The final section of the novel is the play written by Molly. The play, “A LADDER OF RAIN AND THE ROOF BEYOND” is both enchanting and sad; incredibly childlike, and yet also filled with the surprising clarity of understanding that children often have. Even though it has a gutting ending, I am glad to have read this novel.