Subtitled The Pillow Book of Cordelia Kenn this is the story of Cordelia from the time she is 15 until she is 20. She is pregnant and plans to give this account to her daughter on her 16th birthday so that they can share their youth together. She chooses the old and famous Japanese book, 'The Pillow Book' by Sei Shonagon, as a model in order to include all kinds of things she has already written as well as the episodes and thoughts she has now as she compiles her book. She tells of her mother (who died when Cordelia was 5) of her father and her aunt Doris (who marry when she is 16), of her love for William Blacklin, the boy with whom she chooses to have her first sex - and with whom she falls deeply in love. She writes about Julie Martin her teacher who helps her spiritually, describes her love affair with an older married man and her terrifying sexual experience with an unbalanced young man who is obsessed with her. The book includes thoughts on being a women, on poetry, music, reading and writing, on being pregnant and finally of her marriage to William. This Is All is an anthology, written in six 'books' of Cordelia's adolescent life, by turns funny, poignant, sad, exciting, fascinating ironic and truthful about topics that parents often do not tell their children. It is a richly entertaining and challenging read.
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Aidan Chambers was born in County Durham in 1934. After national service in the Royal Navy he became a teacher and then, for seven years, a monk. His young adult novels have been widely acclaimed, with POSTCARDS FROM NO-MAN'S LAND winning the prestigious Carnegie Medal and the US Michael L Printz Award. With his wife Nancy he ran Signal magazine and he has served as the president of the School Library Association. His devoted services to children's literature were recognised by his receipt of the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 2002.From Booklist:
With the publication of This Is All Chambers completes his ambitious, six-novel Dance sequence, which began with Breaktimein 1978 and also includes Dance on My Grave (1982), Now I Know (1988), The Toll Bridge (1995) and--most recently--the Carnegie and Printz Award Book Postcards from No Man's Land (2002). Each title is intended by the author to explore aspects of contemporary adolescent life, but none has been as ambitious, multilayered, or complex as the latest. Its premise, at least, is fairly straightforward. Nineteen-year-old Cordelia Kenn records the story of her life for the daughter with whom she is pregnant, planning to present it to the girl on her sixteenth birthday. The form Cordelia chooses for her tale is unusual: she is writing--or constructing--a pillow book (a la the tenth-century Japanese Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon), in which she not only records a narrative but also jots down poetry, ideas, observations, lists (she's a compulsive list-maker), musings, and more. Cordelia is such an acute observer and has such a lively, inquiring mind that, ultimately, her pillow book becomes six books. Each one has its own structure and narrative strategy. Book two, for example, is actually two stories--one fills the left-hand pages; the second, the right-hand pages. Readers must choose the order in which to read them. Some will complain about this; others will complain about the novel's great length. But the curious, the patient, and the adventurous will treasure the novel's challenges and savor its great rewards. Arguably, the book offers the most complete character study in all of young-adult literature, showing readers the life, mind, and soul of a teenage girl, while also giving readers full-dress portraits of her baby's father, her friends, her family, and--most satisfyingly--her English teacher and mentor, Julie. Cordelia records not only her love for these people but also for Shakespeare, for poetry, for words. Usparingly honest and candid, she never flinches from exploring the physical realities of her body or from recounting the sexually explicit details of her affair with an older man and her terrifying ordeal when she is kidnapped and threatened with rape. Cordelia records it all, because she wants to understand it all; she wants to know everything about herself, and her way of understanding is writing. Thus, she explores the why of things as well as the what and the how. In so doing, she's by turns captivating and maddening, for she loves to analyze and to discover ambiguities. And so her story challenges--but it will grow richer and larger with each reading. Ultimately, this novel is more than a mere piece de resistance; it is the masterpiece of one of young-adult literature's greatest living writers. Michael Cart
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