This is All: The Pillow Book of Cordelia Kenn by Aidan Chambers

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This is All: The Pillow Book of Cordelia Kenn by Aidan Chambers

When I was in New York a couple weeks ago, my boyfriend and I were looking in bookstores, and I kept seeing this book... and I was mentally freaking out. I had just found out that it is a Cybils nominee... and 808 pages!!!!!

Then, it arrived on my doorstep... I automatically assumed that the package had two or three review copies in it... but no, just the one.

But what an amazing one it was! I was absolutely blown away. I know I can't write this review so that it actually conveys the scope of this novel, but I'll tell you a little bit about it.

Cordelia Kenn is 19 years old and is writing the story of her life for her unborn child. This story unfolds in six parts, each one a separate pillow book (a Japanese journaling tradition). She (or Chambers, really) begins with the story of how she meets Will Blacklin, and how they fall in love. She describes their relationship in stunningly rich detail, and all of her emotions just seem so real, so familiar. So familiar in fact that there were times I wanted to stop Cordelia from making mistakes I've made.

I won't tell you much more of the plot, because I think the story is more enjoyable if you don't know what is coming next (I made the mistake of reading some reviews on Amazon, and I wished I hadn't), but her story continues from there, with each "pillow book" taking on a different format. The second pillow book is the most difficult to read, as Chambers presents two stories, one on the left-hand side of the page that consists of mini essays on different topics, and one on the right that tells one continuous story. The fourth pillow book takes the form of a glossary (with a plotline running through it).

I'm not sure how many teenagers would have the patience to read a book this long (or that many adults, for that matter)... but as far as I'm concerned, it was well worth it.


Jackie said...

It's remarkable and all-consuming, isn't it? I remember just gasping in the opening lines of the sixth book. I feel like I should have seen it coming, but I totally didn't.

Chambers really made us work for it, didn't he? I wonder a bit if it truly needed to be that long. I suppose that's a discussion for us to have later, though.

Sara said...

I know... I'm still angry with Chambers for that ending! I'm sure he had his reasons, but still!

Chelsea said...

I am a very young teen and I am currently reading this book. I love it. I'm starting to think like Cordelia, not on the same level as her, mind you, but i have begun to wonder about similar things. It is the most captivating read I have ever consumed. After i read about a 100 pages in a day, I feel I have to take a break from it in order to digest all thats going on in it's pages. To me, the book is more than just a book, it has a personality of it's own and it is a beautiful thing. It's a work of art. I find myself sharing the book with everybody i meet. I LOVE this book. It is so different from anything I've ever read and it attacks and anylizes everything everybody just takes for granted or doesn't give an iota of thought to and it really releases something in us, maybe it's a creative force, but it's awesome.

Sara said...

It's so nice to hear that someone else is enjoying this book as much as I did. I was a little worried that most readers (teens or otherwise) wouldn't have the patience to read something this long, but it's so worth it, isn't it.

And I know exactly what you mean about having to take breaks to "digest" it. I usually like to read books straight through, but I really had to read this one slowly and savor it (even if I got way behind in all of my other reading).

Have you read anything else by Chambers? I haven't yet, but now I really want to.

Mrs S | 50 Book Challenge said...

I've just this minute finished it and am in awe - it was such an amazing and beautiful book. And I so didn't see the twist at the end coming!

I haven't read any more Chambers but understand this is the 6th in a series of books exploring adolescence that he has been writing since the 70s.

Here's my review if you're interested

Ardi said...

It really is a gorgeous book.

It took me a long time to finish though, not because of its length or because I didn't have the patience, but because of the content. Ever few pages I found myself stopping to think about what I read. Some of things Chambers says are just so true of human beings and so profound that one can't help but dwell on them for awhile.

There's a lot of content in there that a lot of people must think of, but no one has the guts to write about. Until now.


Anonymous said...

i just loved this book, it's amazing depth... Every thing. I don't think it maters how thick it is, and technicly more teenages read then adults.
~Ana 14

Sara said...

Me too! Have you read any of Chambers' other books? I think they're all being reprinted in the next years with gorgeous new covers that sort of match This is All. (Here's the Publisher's Weekly article with pictures of a few of the covers:

Anonymous said...

I'm a teenager too, younger than Cordelia, and I borrowed "this is all" from my school library.
I am in love with this book, far more so than any other book I have ever read. It has challenged me, made me change the way I think about a vast number of things in life. I cried for a long, long time after finishing it.

I identified with Cordelia's thoughts on books on page 562 - I need to own this book now. I must. I want to buy this copy from my school.

"When I've read a book I really like, a book which matters, I feel it belongs to me. I mean the book itself, the copy I've read. It's as if I pour myself onto the pages as I read them, all my thoughts and emotions, so that by the time I've finished that copy holds inside it the essence of my reading."

I loved the length of "this is all", and I didn't want it to end. I felt that by reading slowly through its entirety, I had much more attachment emotionally, and I love books that emotionally catch me.

"this is all" is a book that has reached me at a deeper level than any other I have read. So much of it is profound. So much is true. I have no words to express the beauty of the words in this book.

Don't borrow it.
Buy it.

Anonymous said...

I've read it and, yes it is amazing, but you find after the first few times you, or at least I, started to find Cordelia and bit patronizing and prententious. It is still a fantastic book which covers so many topics, although I feel Chmabers was a tad lazy with the ending, although it is written very well. I first read this at 13, and I thought all of these things, alhough no in quite as much detail.

Anonymous said...

this is my favorite book and ibelive it always will be as i was reading it it seemed like i was experenceing everything cordelia was and i loved it it was heart breaking wheni read the sith book and i was devastated when they wouldnt say what her daughter's name was

Anonymous said...

I actually read the whole Dance Sequence for my final exams and I think they are all worth reading! really really great. But if I hat to choose my favourite it would be The Pillow Book Of Cordelia Kenn. It is just great and so rich and full of ideas and thought!
Love it!

Anonymous said...

i feel i can really relate to some of the plots in this book and was gripped the whole way through.. it is a survival guide for all teenage girls...

Anonymous said...

There are no words to describe this book, not even the word AMAZING is worthy of this book.

Anonymous said...

I read this book around two years ago and didnt quite understand it as much as I thought I would. Now, as I am reading it a second time, I find that everything is so much deeper and complex than I originally imagined. Thank you, Cordelia.

Anonymous said...

I first read this book about 4 years ago when I was 13. I loved it from the moment I started reading, but at the time, being so young, I didn't quite get a lot of her emotions. Now that I am older, and have a boyfriend, I understand so much more. This is definitely my favorite book of all time; so beautifully written.

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