The Ten Thousand Doors of January

A beautifully written novel with vivid characters and an amazing structure, this is a series of nested stories within stories, and it’s not clear till the very end exactly who is telling which story to whom. 

January lives in an old mansion on the shores of Lake Champlain in Vermont. It’s the turn of the 20th century, and her guardian is an eccentric millionaire named Mr. Locke. He treats her very well, travels the world with her, brings her to lavish parties attended mostly by older wealthy couples. Otherwise, she’s a dark-skinned little girl who is very much alone.

Still, Mr. Locke does indulge her. He allows her friendship with the boy from the nearby market who shares her interest in reading adventure novels. When the boy finds January a big rough dog, Locke allows January to keep him. The millionaire employs January’s father but sends him on continuous travels looking for rare artifacts. So, the father and daughter don’t have much time together. They meet when he comes home for a week or so. They talk a little, and then he’s off again.

In 1901 at the age of 7, on one of her travels, January finds a door just standing there, out in a Kentucky field, part of a fallen down old house. She wants to go through the door, but Mr. Locke finds her and stops her. “Just in time,” he says. “Doorways are dangerous.”

Sometime later, January finds a small book, a scholarly memoir… in the bottom of her trunk. It turns out to be the story of doors in and out of various worlds and their importance. It also tells how the author fell in love with a beautiful woman who came through one such door. They married and had a little daughter. Then, one day the woman headed back through the door to visit her family. She didn’t return, and so the scholarly author packed up his little girl and headed off through the door to find his wife and be with her.

January is fascinated by the story. And she should be.

This book lulls you with its poetic writing. But there are terrible dangers out there, all because of the doors, it seems. The author has the power to bring those dangers to life and often scare the heck out of us in the process.

I really loved this book. Five stars for the story, the characters, the poetry of the descriptions, but most of all… for the way the story is told.