Monday, 24 November 2014

Classic Corner: Review - Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi

 I'm terribly unread when it comes to classics, so I'm going to try and rectify that with my new feature: Classic Corner! If I read and review a classic, it will be under this banner. Wish me luck!

Publisher: Sterling
Format: Hardcover
Released: October 2nd, 2014
Rating: 7.5/10

Amazon summary:

Made by the woodcarver Geppetto, the puppet Pinocchio dreams of becoming a real child. But his unrestrained curiosity, dishonesty and selfishness put him in constant peril. As he journeys from the deceptive 'Field of Miracles', where he plants gold coins to make them grow, to the land where lazy boys turn into donkeys, Pinocchio's path is paved with mistakes, willfulness, and danger. And all the while his nose keeps growing bigger and bigger and bigger every time he tells a fib, so all the world can see what a liar he is. 


I haven't read many classics at all, but Pinocchio has always been one I've been meaning to pick up. Obviously the story is famous because of the Disney film of the same name and, because of that animated version of Carlo Collodi's tale of a puppet who wants to become a real boy, Pinocchio has become somewhat of a household name. I was very surprised by the difference between the book and the film; they're hardly alike at all, different in both tone and overall plot, but still with echoes of each other. So if you're planning to read this book, don't go into it expecting the Disney version to have been true to the source material!

Collodi's original take on Pinocchio is very different to what I was expecting. It's dark, sometimes menacing and is about one of the most horrible characters in children's literature. Now I'm not saying the book's bad - I actually really enjoyed it - but Pinocchio himself is insufferable. I despised him right from the beginning; he's entitled, spoiled and has no thoughts for anyone but himself. A scene that particularly shocked me is when his father, kind old Geppetto, sells his own coat to buy Pinocchio a spelling book, and Pinocchio goes and sells the book straight away. I couldn't get over how selfish he was, not least because that coat is all Geppetto has, and he gives it up for an ungrateful puppet with no idea of what he has. It made me quite angry, actually, and I don't think I've ever disliked a children's character quite so much!

This book has extremely short chapters that are little tales themselves, though they still make up the one big story. Each chapter has a moral to it, usually the result of Pinocchio learning a very human lesson, and is an interesting way of teaching children to do the right thing. As I mentioned previously, this story is a lot darker than I thought it would be, with violence and other ghastly goings on being the norm. I found Pinocchio being turned into a donkey rather creepy to say the least, and I'm not too fond of marionettes. I'm not sure what modern children think of this book nowadays, but I'm sure one or two of them go to bed with the lights on!

Aside from my intense dislike of Pinocchio, I enjoyed everything else about this book. The imagination is brilliant and it's interesting to see the parallels and differences between this and the Disney version. Collodi's writing has hardly dated at all, and even I, notorious classics avoider, had no problems with the language used. It's an unusual story, highly strange in parts, but it's unlike anything I've ever read. No doubt it was pretty groundbreaking in the late 1800s - I would have loved to see how readers reacted to it then!

I would describe Pinocchio as an accomplished work of children's fiction; it's a cautionary tale of childhood gone wrong, as well as a lesson in how to be human. It's not a book that's easy to forget - mostly thanks to its bizarre protagonist and noteworthy ideas - and it's been roaming around in my mind for a good few days since finishing it. Pinocchio is a loathsome, unlikeable character who I absolutely did not warm to, but even that aspect adds to the enjoyment of this revered classic. I'm glad I gave this horrid little puppet a chance!

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