Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Review: The Thirteen Clocks

The Thirteen Clocks
The Thirteen Clocks by James Thurber

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I picked this book up on io9's recommendation. Had I read it when I was younger, and was looking back and finally getting some of the jokes, I might have a different appreciation. But, reading this as an adult, I was mostly puzzled about why it was so highly regarded.

It may be standing in my way that I'm not a Thurber fan. I just didn't think "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" was funny any of the eight times it was assigned reading in high school and college, and I saw no reason to seek out anything else Thurber had written. I guess his humor is either the sort one finds uproariously funny, or you frown, scratch your head, and wonder if you were supposed to laugh.

The Thirteen Clocks isn't without its amusement value, and, as a gentle satire of fairy tales and children's picture books, it was entertaining.

Despite my sense that this book was Not For Me, though, I could tell that it was a story well-told. It was constructed nicely, the language often poetic. I got the feeling that the author enjoyed writing it.

The story is a good example of how to conduct a whole new fairy tale without invoking or rehashing the classics. The absurdity of the story is very much in keeping with stories passed down through generations. In it, a Princess is kept in a castle with thirteen stopped clocks, and her uncle the Duke finds ways to kill or turn away her suitors. Then one day, a Prince disguised as a minstrel comes along, determined to win the Princess's hand.

By all rights, I should've enjoyed this book far more than I did. I see no reason to not recommend that you read it to your younger children (though not TOO young; there are some scary parts), and try to enjoy it for yourself. At the very least, it's a departure from that book they insist you read to them every single night.

View all my reviews


  1. I read this as a kid. I think it was packaged with another story called The Wonderful O (awesome title), but I can't remember any of it. Damn that enormous TBR pile! If it weren't for that I may hunt a copy of this down for a reread.

    1. It's a really quick read. Took me less than an hour.