Under the Poppy by Kathe Koja

I’m pretty sure I liked this book. Pretty sure.

By the end I was really into it, waiting to see how things would unfold. I cared about the main characters, and was deeply invested in the central relationship. But I’m still only pretty sure I liked this book.

I’m not sure how I could describe it in a couple of sentences. There’s a brothel at the start, and that’s where the book gets its name. It’s about the power of putting on a show. There are puppets, and people who are being treated like puppets. It starts in one place, and ends some place very different. The first half of the novel is separate from the second half by years and physical distance.

I kept on waiting for the magic to show up, but that never happened. It’s historical fiction, but about a corner of history I’m particularly familiar with, so it all felt very unreal. I mean that in a good way.

The writing was lovely. Koja’s descriptions were vivid and captivating. She made me imagine whole worlds that didn’t quite look like the real one.

The novel is populated by a multitude of different voices. Koja writes distinct characters who speak just like themselves.

The afterward said that Koja and her husband were planning on adapting the story into a play, and I think that’s a lovely idea. It’s about the theater, and much of the story already takes place on stage.

There’s a sequel, Mercury Waltz, published last year, and I’m adding it on my list of things to read. I’m pretty sure I liked this book.


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