Starbook, the latest novel by Booker Prize-winning author, Ben Okri, is nothing short of luminous. Here the master craftsman takes us to a place both ancient and yet profoundly contemporary, weaving a myth that is at once spiritual journey: "This is a story my mother began to tell me as a child. The rest I gleaned from the book of life amongst the stars, in which all things are known."
And so begins a narrative of magical quality, which brings us back to forgotten parts of the human experience we feared lost forever - back to the indivisible connection between the personal and the universal.
At the level of story, Starbook is a tale of love and redemption about a prince and a young maiden. The maiden hails from a renowned tribe of artists, artists who live apart from the world but who capture its essence in sculptures so beautiful and disturbing that their transformative powers are deeply revered. As her parents set about finding a suitable husband for her, she has a chance encounter with the prince at the river, and their destinies are irrevocably changed.
Okri's true achievement, of course, goes way deeper than story. The eternal account of human love is shot through with intimations of the great evils that underlie every age, and is captivating in its insight. For in this book the author explores the truth that lies at the heart of all myth.
In myth is the forgotten essence of what we feel to be true, but from which we have long been utterly disconnected. Truth never dies, though, it just lies buried. And in Starbook, it is gently revealed by the lyrical quality of Okri's prose.
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