MyMum said sometimes refugees don’t eat anything for days and days. Sometimes weeks and months so I am really lucky. I think she exaggerates. But I think she is right about the lucky bit. Or maybe not.
Sometimes I forget that MyMum is dead. But that is probably better than remembering.
When Frankie’s mother dies, he tells his teacher, of course. But he can't seem to get anyone at his school in southern England to listen to him. So the six-year-old comes up with a plan: go to France, find a police station, and ask the officers to ring his father. Thus a stowaway’s view of the sea opens Giller-nominated Pauline Holdstock’s eighth novel, narrated in turns by Frankie—who likes cheese, numbers, the sea when it’s pink and “smooth like counting,” and being alone when he feels bad—and a cast of characters that includes his worried Gran, his callous teacher, and his not-so-reliable father. Set in the summer of Annichka the Soviet space dog, Here I Am! is a mesmerizing story about the lucidity of children and the shortsightedness of adults.
Pauline Holdstock is an internationally published novelist, short fiction writer and essayist. Her novels have been shortlisted for a number of awards, among them the Best First Novel Award, the Scotia Bank Giller prize and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. Her historical novel Beyond Measure was the winner of the BC Book Prizes Ethel Wilson Award for Fiction. The Hunter and the Wild Girl, her most recent book, won the City of Victoria Butler Book Prize. Pauline lives just outside Victoria on Vancouver Island.
Praise for Here I Am!
“Here I Am! is a great armchair read, delivered by a six-year-old narrator who is always on the move, an acute observer, frequently hilarious, and often very wise. Frankie both warmed and wrenched my heart, and it was a deep pleasure to follow him and the cast of supporting characters on his epic voyage from disaster to happiness and contentment—the very opposite of the story of the Titanic that frightens him so. Fans of Mark Haddon will particularly enjoy Here I Am!—though Pauline Holdstock’s character, is of course, no one but himself, and the dog in Here I Am! is very much alive. Pauline Holdstock has crafted a touching and utterly absorbing story that reminds us of what it is to be a child.” —Kathy Page, author of Dear Evelyn
"At the heart of Pauline Holdstock’s spellbinding new novel is the wonderful Francis: a six year old stowaway with opinions about almost everything. I loved being in his company and indeed in the company of all the vivid 'a noying' characters who people this suspenseful, exuberant story. If only Here I Am! didn’t have to end." —Margot Livesey, author of Mercury
Praise for Pauline Holdstock
“[The Blackbirds’s Song] examines questions of faith, meaning and power; [Holdstock’s] investigation of these issues is profound and beautifully paced, so that despite the intensity of the subject, the momentum of the narrative never falters, the evocation of place and time having an almost cinematic immediacy.” —Times Literary Supplement
“Powerful, almost elemental storytelling, an achievement not only of craft but of raw emotion. [The Hunter and the Wild Girl] pulses with vitality, building to a stunning, shattering conclusion.” —Vancouver Sun
“Holdstock’s ability to paint strange and compelling characters and march them through wondrous and terrifying events leaves one not too concerned about tracing themes. As her title suggests, mysterious life spills beyond the boundaries of inquiry.” —Globe and Mail
“A thorough examination of what, exactly, it means to be a person—a question more daunting than any human antagonist, and one Holdstock raises gradually, with great skill and a light touch . . . [A] rich, immersive experience with little left to the imagination. That’s a good thing: hers is the kind of prose you get lost in.” —National Post
"Pauline Holdstock's language is so powerful, her writing so wrought with emotion and beauty, that you become fully lost in her world." —Winnipeg Review