Tuesday, 18 February 2014
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland... by Catherynne M. Valente
The full title of this book is The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, and I have been meaning to read it since I first read about its publication. Now, thanks to Lovereading, I have finally got round to it. And I was enchanted. I knew within ten pages that I was entirely happy and going to love it.
You are swept away from the start very much as young the young heroine is. Young September, a 12-year-old living in Omaha, is fed up at home - her mother is never there (she's busy making airplanes for the war effort), her father has gone to be a soldier, and she's lonely. But the Green Wind takes pity on her and arrives on the Leopard of Little Breezes to take her to Fairyland, where she finds everything is not just lovely, because the wicked Marquess has imposed stringent laws which mean that no one is allowed to fly and witches can't work their witchcraft properly -- in short, what is needed is a girl who is willing to go on a Quest to put things right. And despite discomfort and difficulties and even enormous setbacks, September is prepared to take on the task. After all, she reasons, why else was she brought there?
I love the way in which the storyteller addresses the reader directly and says things like "you must remember from your own adventuring days how harsh a task lies before her"... I love the way everything isn't explained all at once, even though we have an all-knowing narrator. I love the names of the characters: September who was born in May, the Wyverary A-Through-L whose father, he thinks, must be a Library, the frightening Glashtyn...
I found myself thinking a lot about the literary influences behind this delightful book -- I detected, I think, a soupcon of The Wizard of Oz (not, I admit, my favourite book), a little smattering of Lud in the Mist (practically required reading for Fairyland aspirants), a suggestion of Thurber (a glorious teller of fairytales) and more than a hint of The Phantom Tollbooth, a book which should be an admission ticket to Faerie in its own right.
This is only the first of September's adventures in Fairyland and I'll be reading the next one very soon.