The Morning Star Trilogy by Nick Bantock
In Which The Extraordinary Correspondence of Griffin and Sabine is Illuminated.
I first came across Griffin and Sabine while I was working at a bookstore in 2001, because it’s apparently a book that only comes into print every 5 years and the older staff were going crazy over the chance to buy it. Once I read a friend’s copy, I could understand why: the books are beautiful. Truly, truly beautiful. The books are made up of a series of postcards and letters between Griffin, an artist living in London, and Sabine, an illustrator of postage stamps living in the (fictional) Sicmon Islands in the South Pacific.
And of course I didn’t buy it when I had the opportunity (because I’m a moron, y’see) and of course it has been out of print pretty much ever since. So this review is not for the original Griffin and Sabine trilogy, but its sequel, The Morning Star trilogy, which comes in a rather pretty box set. I’ve been holding off reading it because I hadn’t read the original books since 2001 and couldn’t quite remember what happened, but as I’ve been off sick from work *coughs pathetically* I decided to treat myself.
The first in the trilogy, The Gryphon, picks up several years after the end of The Golden Mean and begins with a cryptic postcard from Sabine to Matthew Sedon, an archaeologist working in Egypt. She asks him to pick up a bundle of letters – the entire Griffin-Sabine correspondence from the previous books – which he shares with his girlfriend Isabella, living in Paris. Both are perplexed by what it contains and suspect a hoax, until Griffin starts sending postcards to Isabella that show more knowledge of her waking visions than she has ever shared with anyone. Soon, they are both caught up in the enigmatic world of Griffin, Sabine and their arch-enemy Frolatti.
To be honest, describing the plot much more than that makes it sound a bit silly and trite. There’s all sorts of mysticism and references to legends that go over my head slightly, possibly because I’m still pretty sick* or because Nick Bantock is vastly cleverer than me, or because the references are silly and trite. Let me know which you think it is once you have read it? The plot might be a bit slight, but the format is just incredible. The postcards, envelopes and stamps are all different and all beautiful, whilst the simple pleasure of pulling out a sheet of paper from an envelope and getting to read a handwritten (well, sorta) letter is incomparable. This is basically The Jolly Postman for adults and if there was one book (or series of books) I wish I had written, it’s this one. Just flat out gorgeous. OK, maybe writing the Harry Potter series would have been pretty awesome too – think of the money! – but still, I’d pick the Griffin and Sabine books as my why didn’t I think of that winner. I read this in bed whilst feeling completely awful and then fell asleep hugging it, because it’s so pretty. *strokes the pretty*
*It’s just a cold, true, but one that’s seriously knocked me for six!