The New Policeman
Greenwillow Books, 2007
Who knows where the time goes?
There never seems to be enough time in Kinvara, or anywhere else in Ireland for that matter. When J.J.’s mother says time’s what she really wants for her birthday, J.J. decides to find her some. He’s set himself up for an impossible task . . . until a neighbor reveals a secret. There’s a place where time stands still—at least, it’s supposed to. J.J. can make the journey there, but he’ll have to vanish from his own life to do so. Can J.J. find the leak between the two worlds? Will a shocking rumor about his family’s past come back to haunt him? And what does it all have to do with the village’s new policeman . . . ?
This novel was surprisingly good, not that I was expecting less, but more that I wasn’t sure what to expect at all. The overall premise of the book doesn’t really do the actual story justice. I love how Thompson has woven together Ireland’s past and present, the ancient, tribal, mythological version of the nation with the present, Christian-influenced nation we see today.
Although Thomson lifted the core of her fantasy from Irish mythology, I still feel this is an original fantasy because it’s rare that we get to see fantasies using Irish mythology. We see a lot of Norse and Austro-Hungarian myth, with elves, dragons, dwarves, as well as Greek and Roman, but it’s rare that we get a taste of Irish mythology, which is characteristically different, both in its creatures and the world in which they live.
What I found most interesting was the correlation that Thompson makes between the Irish mythology, which is treated as fact in the text, and the Irish culture. The music is thought to have come from the fairies, and when J.J. discovers the world of the fairies, who are actually much more like humans than our traditional view of fairies, he discovers that time never passes in their land, so they have no fear or worry about anything. Thompson’s theory spoken through the text creates a connection between the Irish people and their love for music, beer, dancing and general merriment with their mythology.
It’s a fun take on Ireland’s past and present, but, in a way, it may not be too far off. Even though they may not have actually gotten their music from fairies, there are theories about how cultures and languages emerge. The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis works off of the belief that a culture’s language is formed out of its surroundings, thus why the Eskimos would have 30+ words for snow. There may be some credence to why Ireland and the Gaelic people have been historically very different from the rest of the people’s of Europe—why they’ve valued music and merriment, relationships and family over conquering other lands or industrial progress. Perhaps Thompson’s theory is correct, and the Irish music does come from the immortals who live in Tír na n’Óg, the land of eternal youth.
I highly recommend this book to all readers 11+.
For the Classroom
This book operates in a different world than ours. It’s similar, but because of the interweaving of the fantasy, there are different natural laws. However, given the subtext of Christianity vs. Irish culture and mythology, and the general exposé on Irish mythology and culture, it’s a great classroom companion for religion and mythology.