August began with good intentions about writing lots of posts and really getting myself up to date but ended in failure, and with me seriously in need of cheering up, so I've signed up for the RIP Challenge (see my last post) in the hope that I can persuade myself to celebrate the arrival of autumn rather than mourn the loss of summer (what summer?). I'm sitting here watching yet another downpour, there is a soggy patch in the middle of my duvet where The Bolter, having come in from a game of ball in the rain, flung herself down, and I'm freezing because the mosquito bites on my shoulder (unwelcome legacy of our non-summer) overheat if I wear a sweater. And it's long past time for summing up August's books:
- Blood Trail by Tanya Huff
- The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett - reread
- What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge - reread
- Fool Moon by Jim Butcher
- Vintage Murder by Ngaio Marsh
- The Dig by John Preston
- Stoneheart by Charlie Fletcher
- A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L'Engle
- The Moon By Night by Madeleine L'Engle
- And Both Were Young by Madeleine L'Engle
- Still Life by Louise Penny
I re-read What Katy Did and The Secret Garden so that I can start recording my thoughts about the individual books on my list of children's writing, so posts on both will follow. I found myself wanting very much to follow Katy Carr's later adventures in just the same way I did when younger. Next on this particular reading list, however, is Little House on the Prairie.
Ann at Table Talk recommended John Preston's The Dig, and wrote about it here, much better than I should do. It left me wanting to read up on the Sutton Hoo excavations, and grateful for the variety of information available on the web to satisfy these dilettante-ish wishes. I read Louise Penny's Still Life for the Second Canadian Book Challenge, so it will be the subject of a future post (must do it soon!). The first in a series of detective stories set in rural Quebec, and I'm looking forward to the next one.
Finally, Stoneheart by Charlie Fletcher, was another book that set me searching the Internet, this time for photos and locations of the statues who come to life in this first of a series. This book seems to have had a somewhat mixed reception when it was published a couple of years ago but it was nominated for the Carnegie medal, and I enjoyed it. It may be more fun if you know London a little: there's a good map at the start but, in the old days it might have been illustrated by someone like Charles Keeping, who would have provided wonderfully muscular images. The descriptive writing is good, though, and the multi-layered un-London, with its history which is accessible to Edie, because she is special – a "glint" – should spark curiosity among the book's readers. The first depiction that I remember of London's frost fairs was in Woolf's Orlando (where it rather took second place to my worries about the ambivalent sexuality of the protagonist – I was much too young to be reading it); here the event is chilling in every sense. Because Fletcher's London is simultaneously Dickensian, Elizabethan and modern the sense of place and timelessness is strong, while the impression of temporal dislocation is reflected in the insecurities of the two children, George and Edie, who are forced into premature independence by their dysfunctional backgrounds, and by the events George unwittingly triggers when he breaks a carving at the Natural History Museum. The book's conclusion is subdued, with the promise of an even scarier sequel. Apparently the film rights have been sold: in the right hands this could be a splendidly terrifying film.