Every now and then you read a book that you just love so much, that you wish you could move inside it, inhabiting the very world in which it is set. This is how I felt as I read The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E Harrow. I actually don’t really know how to even begin writing about this novel – that’s how much I adored it. It has become clear to me through recent years that I do really enjoy magic realism as a genre. I’m thinking here of books like Erin Morgenstern’s, The Night Circus and Claire North’s The First Fifteen LIves of Harry August. I’m very willing to suspend disbelief, to visit different realities, particularly when it’s all just so beautifully written, as it is in this case, with these books.
January Scaller grows up in the house of a collector, Mr Locke, knowing that she is something of a curiosity herself due to her uncertain ethnicity. Her father is largely absent, being as he is the one who does the collecting on behalf of Mr Locke, who reciprocates by providing a home for, and largely raising, January. Her life is a lonely one and not one she feels particularly at ease inhabiting. One day, amongst the many strange artifacts contained in Locke House, January finds a book, The Ten Thousand Doors. This book, which transforms January’s life, explains that there are many other ‘worlds’ that can be found through various doors or portals scattered throughout our own reality. To explain much more would be to spoil the book for you and believe me when I say, this is a book you really should read.
One of the things that I enjoyed most in this novel was the potential, or plausible implausibility. Harrow references, in footnotes throughout the book, other points of reference for tales of other worlds or portals. It’s a lovely idea to believe that we are not alone, and as suggested in this book, that cats quite often move between worlds without too much effort, so that wherever you are, we have our feline friends.
I had been so looking forward to reading this book that I actually treated myself to the hardback copy, a type of birthday present to self, and I’m pleased I did. I drove around town with it in the car, stealing moments waiting for my kids, reading it. I lit fires at night, just so that I could enjoy the whole experience of reading a story this good, this satisfying and most importantly, this unusual.
Go out now, buy it and soon you will join me in wishing, so very much, that the doors were real.