Published by W. W. Norton & Company on 6/2/2014
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Odeline Milk’s days have been pre-scheduled for her entire life; from ritualized meals and slotted television time to precisely documented expenses. But when Odeline is orphaned at eighteen, she is able to leave the restrictions of her small town and seek an audience that will support her dreams of becoming a mime. Lured by an ad for a boat named Chaplin and Company, Odeline takes up residence in one of London’s canal neighborhoods, where she will come to learn the true meaning of community.
Fellowes writes from overhead, peering down and zooming in on each of her characters as they are introduced. She soars through London, building a neighborhood around Odeline, and takes moments to weave the history of the boat in between. What emerges is a beautiful, unexpected coming of age story populated with wonderfully distinct characters.
“London has risen, built itself up like a toy city, stacked itself, crammed buildings against the edges of waterways and railways, so that from the ground these canals are rarely seen. To cross a bridge and glimpse one is a surprise. Life on these waterways is lower than life on the streets around it. It is below the eyeline. A good place to hide.”
Though it is set in modern day, the novel is told in vignettes that echo both the haunting sadness and cheeky charm of silent film. The blend is both surprising and unique, making Chaplin and Company a highly memorable debut.