The cover of this book caught my eye as I was browsing through the central library one afternoon. It’s the tale of two teenage misfits, Miles McGinty and Isabel Dowling, in 19th century Sydney who learn to build an airplane that actually flies.
In some ways, it’s the book equivalent of a Wes Anderson movie like Moonrise Kingdom. Young protagonists, joining forces against a weird adult world. And the story itself was compelling enough and funny enough. But Wes Anderson makes his movies work for adults by making them explicitly nostalgic — an adult looking back and thinking about this strange episode in their childhood. (The Grand Budapest is even more intensely layered.)
This book, on the other hand, was just adventure story, straight up. Miles and Isabel are born on the same day, grow up in very different circumstances (the satire of both upper and working classes was excellent), and then met somewhat serendipitously. It’s a picaresque (Candide, etc), but with a slightly unique structure in that there are two protagonists working their way toward each other. So … Candide but with Cunegonde’s life narrated in real time as well. But in some ways, it makes it seem like the book only gets its start two-thirds of the way in, when M & I finally meet and start collaborating on their flying machine.
Overall, a worthwhile story especially for a younger audience. I’d put the target audience of this one around ten or twelve, to be honest …. Not completely sure why it was shelved in the adult section, to be honest. Still, entertaining and charming.