The first book club choice on our new blog is the wonderful The Iron Man by Ted Hughes, a story which I am sure many people are familiar with. Having only read fragments of Hughes’ poetry in the past, I was intrigued when I saw how many works of children’s fiction he produced during his writing career. I chose it with relatively high hopes, and am incredibly pleased to say that I wasn’t in the least disappointed.
The Iron Man, which was first published in 1968, tells the story of a metal man, thought at first to be an enemy of the people. He is found by a group of local villagers whilst snacking on their farm equipment, and they decide that the best thing to do in such circumstances is to build an enormous pit and lure the Iron Man inside. This they do. What they don’t factor into the equation is that the Iron Man is able to escape. This he does. A friendship with a young boy named Hogarth ensues, and to prove his worth to the sceptical adults, the Iron Man is tasked with saving the earth from an evil space creature.
This sounds very sci-fi, I know, and my wariness of choosing this as my first Hughes book to read was based purely upon the fact that I don’t overly enjoy science fiction as a genre. All of my apprehension about it dissipated on the first page however, and I found The Iron Man to be an incredibly enjoyable little novel. The story is one of the most inventive which I’ve come across in a long while, and I loved the way in which Hughes crafted his tale. Despite the other-worldly beings, the writing style and descriptions throughout made it appear almost believable.
As a character, I adored the Iron Man. He was wonderfully invented, and the passage about how his destroyed body rebuilt itself was so beautiful and startling that I read it numerous times. Hughes’ imagination is a marvellous one, and Andrew Davidson’s monochrome illustrations which accompany the volume are beautiful.
If I had read this as a child, I would have been both terrified and utterly enchanted by the brilliant and memorable story and its characters. There is nothing at all in the novel which I feel could be improved, and it has already become a firm favourite of mine.
I feel that I should end on the wonderfully heartwarming message of the book:
“You are who you choose to be.”