The Night Bookmobile
by Audrey Niffenegger

Abrams, 2010. ISBN 978-0-810-99617-5.
Reviewed by Lee Ambrose
Posted on 03/03/2011

Fiction: Paranormal/Science Fiction/Fantasy

Inspired by The Door in the Wall, a short story written by H.G. Wells, Audrey Niffenegger wrote and illustrated The Night Bookmobile, a most intriguing book. It is her first graphic novella and, as she states in the Afterword, part of a larger work. Niffenegger's graphic drawings employ both simplicity and mystery. The choice of sketches and colors creates a powerful technique that enhances the dream-like tale's written word.

In this paranormal novella, following a fight with her boyfriend, Alexandra takes a walk and happens upon a Winnebago that houses a library—a very different sort of library—one holding all the books she, and she alone, has ever read. This library is only open from dusk to dawn and requires the invitation of the librarian for entry. The librarian, Mr, Openshaw, serves tea and speaks in cryptic messages, which Alexandra doesn't always comprehend when she hears them, but which are made evident by the book's end.

Alexandra searches for the library several times after her accidental discovery, and each time she implores the kindly Mr Openshaw for a place on the "staff" of the library. But each time her request is denied. Her love of books and reading eventually catapults her into a career as a librarian. But it is the Night Bookmobile she desires. By book's end, she realizes her dream of being part of the Night Bookmobile's library staff. But the realization of that dream has eerie and unexpected consequences.

The story speaks to that innate love of books that many of us have, and the ways in which books influence us. There is also a greater theme that if discussed here would prove to be a spoiler to those who are now intrigued enough to go read this book. Sparse in words and rich in graphic drawings, this book is sure to delight book lovers and those searching for a unique reading experience.

Audrey Niffenegger has written The Time Traveler's Wife, and Her Fearful Symmetry, both bestsellers. She has also illustrated and authored two novels-in-pictures: The Adventuress and The Three Incestuous Sisters. She resides in Chicago. Visit her website.

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