If you’ve ever wondered where your dreams come from when you go to sleep at night, just look around. This is where they are made.The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
Orphan, clock keeper, and thief, Hugo lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station, where his survival depends on secrets and anonymity. But when his world suddenly interlocks with an eccentric, bookish girl and a bitter old man who runs a toy booth in the station, Hugo’s undercover life, and his most precious secret, are put in jeopardy. A cryptic drawing, a treasured notebook, a stolen key, a mechanical man, and a hidden message from Hugo’s dead father form the backbone of this intricate, tender, and spellbinding mystery.
Paris, 1931. Hugo Cabret is an orphaned boy who lives behind the walls of a Parisian train station working as his uncle’s apprentice as the station’s clock keeper. Then one night his uncle disappears. Now Hugo is alone, still living inside the station walls, stealing to survive, and maintaining the clocks so no one will know his uncle is gone.
Before dying, his father had taken Hugo to a museum where he worked part time and showed him an astonishing thing: an automaton broken in the attic. The automaton sat at a desk and held a pen; Hugo believed that once fixed, the automaton would relay a message from his father.
So, using his father’s notebook as a guide, Hugo devotes himself to fixing the little man, and to be able to do so he steals parts from a toy shop in the station. When he’s caught, the owner of the store, Georges, takes away his father’s notebook and threatens him with arrest. From then on the two start a relationship that will change Hugo’s life forever, once he finds out who the man really is.
But there is more to the book than just the story of an orphaned boy. The invention of Hugo Cabret is at its core a story about early cinema inspired by the life and work of Georges Méliès, about the beginnings of filmmaking and how truly magical it was. It also explores how affecting and life-changing movies can be, and as a true cinema lover, this built an incredible reading experience for me.
My favorite part of the book was its format. Amongst its 533 pages, 284 contain original illustrations as well as real photographs from the time period. The whole thing makes you feel as if you are actually watching a movie. Neither text nor pictures can tell the story alone. The images are not complementary, they are essential. Without them the story would not exist.
I think that Selznick’s drawings and words are symbolic, and paint and spell out a beautiful novel, teaching us about how those who are in tough circumstances can find the light at the end of the tunnel.