Saturday, June 09, 2007


Zazoo by Richard Mosher

Saturday, April 28, 2007

"Z" Title
Finding this gem was true serendipity. I looked for a "Z" title at the library and found this in the young adult section. The title sounded much more interesting than "Zorro." Plus I thought it would be a short, easy read. Amazingly, I had never heard of it before.
First off, I would never classify this book for anyone under the age of 14. There are some adult themes and disturbing memories. But the prose is sheer poetry, and the poetry, fantastic. Absolutely lyrically beautiful. Mosher captures so well the workings of the adolescent female mind. All of his main characters are fascinating: Zazoo, the Vietnamese girl who feels like any other French girl; Grand-Pierre, the WWII resistance hero; Juliette, Zazoo's best friend; Marius, the sixteen-year-old boy who is the catalyst for change; and Monsier Klein, the pharmacist and holder of many secrets. This is just a quiet, well-told story about love (so many love stories), war, growing up, growing old, forgiveness and accepting life.
Zazoo is an almost-fourteen year old Vietnamese adopted at the age of two by Grand-Pierre and brought to live in his mill on a canal in France. Together, they enjoy swimming and skating the canal, eating oatmeal, and writing poetry. While rowing in the canal, she meets a strange boy whose questions set off a chain of events. Old, buried secrets start to unfold. Zazoo learns to deal with some pretty wrenching details of her adoptive grandfather's activities during WWII, as well as his failing mental capacity all while falling in love herself. I couldn't put it down, it was such a wonderful story. Here's an example of the beautiful writing:
"Up the river I rowed, by the light of the shrouded moon and the dim, distant streetlamps. Stroke after stroke, bending my back, glad to be pulling, pulling, bending my legs and pulling again with my mittened hands until I was warm top to toe except in some darker place I supposed must be my heart.
Since a rower sits facing the stern, it was good I knew the river's shallows and angles, the twists where its current was tricky. The moon was so wrapped in snowy clouds that I saw only vague shapes, and steered from old habit. Rowing was fine in the dark, in the falling snow. My boat didn't whisper hero or coward, Gestapo or Vietnam. It didn't whisper at all, only groaned with the pull of it's oars."
"I sobbed down the front of his jacket. He crooned to me, my sad old man and the only hero I had, in the kitchen of my only home, the Mill of a Thousand Years, the Mill of a Thousand Tears."
And I have to include a couple of the shorter poems. They are all lovely.
is where the river flows
humming through the willows.
Home is milkweed in your hair,
with hemlock moss your pillows.
Home, if only you could know,
is anyplace I see you--
it's in your heart
and from the start
I've known my home would be you."
"The sound of a nightingale's silence
is louder than anyone's cry.
The tread of your long-ago footstep
echo whenever I sigh.
The water gone still and unmoving
can't freeze in my memory's eye--
it ripples and waves,
it whispers your name,
it hears you say "Soon" one more time."
Rating: 5
Posted by Framed at 6:11 PM

This book does sound like serendipity; it must have been difficult to find a book that started with Z! Then to turn out to be one you really enjoyed is bonus, indeed. I really liked the poems and hope to find a copy of this one at the library.
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