Anne Fine's Up On Cloud Nine is possibly one of the best books you will ever read. Character-led, beautifully crafted, uplifting and life-affirming, Fine's masterpiece tells the story of a deep friendship between two boys, Stolly and Ian. The pair are introduced to the reader at the point where the accident-prone Stolly is lying unconscious in a hospital bed having survived a rather spectacular plummet to the ground from a very high window.
As the pair are caught in the sterile time-warp of the hospital, waiting for the arrival of their respective parents, Ian contemplates Stolly's life: a Walter Mitty character who insists he is not a liar but a fantasist, who unflinchingly speaks as he finds and is blessed with a mind and imagination so receptive to experience that occasionally his words and actions are shocking to those around him.
As the waiting continues Ian, circled by a social worker who is concerned at the alarming regularity of Stolly's hospital visits, pieces together the good, the funny, the bad and the downright ugly, compiling a comprehensive biography that ultimately leads him to believe that his remarkable friend's accident may not have been an accident at all.
Anne Fine is certainly on form in this extraordinary, unforgettable novel--the lady rarely disappoints, with sure-fire winners such as Goggle Eyes, Flour Babies and Madame Doubtfire enticing new generations of readers into her world. But with Up On Cloud Nine she really hits the spot with a sublime, involving novel that is a deceptively quick and simple read, yet contains all the hallmarks of a classic work of fiction. It may sound overdramatic, but everyone--and that includes adults--should read this to remind themselves that a really good book can lift the spirits and leave you with seriously rosy glow. Age 9 and over. Susan Harrison