“The 13 Clocks” by James Thurber was the most recent book for the Wall Street Journal book club. I have to say, it was a weird book. One of the strangest reads I’ve ever undertaken – and that is saying something. Neil Gaiman recommended “The 13 Clocks” to the WSJ book club and while I haven’t read any of this work before, I am fairly certain Gaiman’s work is going to be strange to read as well.
“The 13 Clocks” is a children’s book although it seems inappropriate for young ones. This is also true of Anderson’s Fairy Tales, and most children books in general from the past. The premise of the story is there is a cold Duke that lives in Coffin Castle with 13 clocks, all broken. The only one with warm hands in the castle is his beautiful niece, Saralinda whom is a few days away from turning twenty-one. There have been many suitors in the past that have traveled to Coffin Castle to ask for the beautiful Saralinda’s hand in marriage. The cold Duke always sets to the men an impossible task to keep Saralinda – the only one with warm hands – his prisoner.
Although the book was strange, I did think that Thurber wrote it well. His words sometimes rhymed but always had a fun rhythm to them. “The cold Duke was afraid of Now, for Now has warmth and urgency, and Then is dead and buried. Now might bring a certain knight of gay and shining courage – “But, no!” the cold Duke muttered. “The Prince will break himself against a new and awful labor: a place too high to reach, a thing too far to find, a burden too heavy to lift.” The Duke was afraid of Now, but he tampered with the clocks to see if they would go, out of a strange perversity, praying that they wouldn’t.” (The Thirteen Clocks, pg 19). I liked this quote because it really portrays how insane the Duke is.
It is a traditional story of good verses evil with a strange twist on it. Prince Zorn of Zorna arrives in town disguised as a commoner, Xingu, to attempt to win the beautiful Saralinda’s hand. The cold Duke sees through his disguise and Prince Zorn is given an impossible task as all previous suitors have had set. Prince Zorn is determined to triumph over the cold Duke.
Would I recommend this book? Not to most people. It was such a strange read. I don’t believe that most people would enjoy it. I wouldn’t pick it up again and I wouldn’t rave about it to others. It was a strange read.