Thursday , October 1 2020
Cover The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

Book Review: ‘The Starless Sea’ by Erin Morgenstern

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern, now available in paperback from Penguin/Randomhouse, takes readers on a wondrous journey into the magic of stories. Morgenstern has created an amazing world where the boundary between fiction and reality is blurred; where characters appear in the pages of books and then, miraculously, appear in the world beside us.

What would you do if you picked up a dusty book from a library shelf, opened it at random, and read about something that had happened to you? Not just something that sounds like what you experienced, but down to the smallest detail, exactly what you felt, did, and saw. 

Well this is what happens to Zachary Ezra Rawlins. However, his is not the only story contained within its pages as it describes a fantastic world of stories waiting behind certain doors. A door such as the one described in the story about Rawlins as a child. A door he ignored and didn’t open, and that was gone the next day when he went back to look and see if he could go through it.

In some ways Rawlins has been looking for that door, that entrance to the wonderful and magical world of stories and the people who populated them, ever since. So finding the book with the story about his finding the door in it pushes him out of his comfortable life at university into a quest to finding his door again.

Morgenstern has created something incredibly special with this book. Not only has she made a fantastic world where stories and reality intermingle to the extent where both the reader and her characters have a hard time discerning the difference between the two, she’s also managed to invent a world in which the events depicted seem perfectly plausible. 

Where after all do stories come from if not based on reality to some extent? So why shouldn’t there be an ideal of the stories we read? Why shouldn’t there be a place where the characters we read about and visualize in our imaginations live out the experiences we read?

Morgenstern has created a masterwork of interconnected threads which comprise the entire story. At first we’re reading chapters from the book Rawlins finds and then she gradually introduces the characters from that book, and their stories, into his story. He finds himself meeting all the enigmatic, wonderful, and strange people (and places) that he reads about until he is as an integral part of their story as they are his.

The story is told from multiple perspectives. As we follow Rawlins in his search for the entrance into the world behind the doors, we also read how others see him and his quest. For when he does find his door he vanishes from the world above leaving his one close friend and his mother to wonder what’s become of him.

What with all the characters and different stories you might think this book would be a confusing and disorganized mess impossible to understand. However, Morgenstern not only makes it coherent, she has created a beautiful and wondrous world where imagination and inspiration rule and the only limits to what’s possible are – well there aren’t any. 

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern is an amazing book that is not only a wonderful read but will also encourage you to look at stories in ways you never have before. This is a book for those who love stories and the people who inhabit them. 

About Richard Marcus

Richard Marcus is the author of two books commissioned by Ulysses Press, "What Will Happen In Eragon IV?" (2009) and "The Unofficial Heroes Of Olympus Companion". Aside from Blogcritics his work has appeared around the world in publications like the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine and the multilingual web site Qantara.de. He has been writing for Blogcritics.org since 2005 and has published around 1900 articles at the site.

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