Home

“The dream is ended: this is the morning.” #Narniathon #TheLastBattle

15 Comments

Well, I can hardly believe it, but I’ve stuck to the schedule for Chris’s Narniathon and have made it to the final book in the series – “The Last Battle”, first published in 1956. Alas, as I’ve mentioned before, this is not my original copy from my childhood as that’s currently AWOL (though hopefully somewhere in the house); I have substituted with this cheap and temporary copy with a modern cover and I can’t say I like it much – anyway, onward and inward as they say! ;D

As the book opens, Narnia is in decline; Aslan appears to have deserted his land, and the last King, Tirian, is full of excitement when a rumour reaches them that the lion has returned. However, he soon discovers how wrong things are going when he hears that trees are being felled and sold to Calomen as well as talking beasts enslaved – all apparently on the orders of Aslan. It soon becomes clear that this is no true Aslan, simply an imposter which needs to be dealt with quickly. However the Narnians appear to be outnumbered by the Calormenes, faith in Narnia and its king has fallen by the wayside, and Tirian has no option except to call for help from the children who came from our world in the country’s past. Amazingly, Eustace and Jill appear from nowhere; and the battle is on to save their beloved Narnia from betrayal and colonisation. The Last Battle will indeed be a mighty one…

I must admit to approaching this book with a little trepidation… Although I recall not being over-fond of “The Horse and His Boy“, I also remember finding “The Last Battle” hard to take because it’s so sad at the beginning. Seeing Narnia in decline, the horrors of occupation and the dominance of those with vested interests is very painful (and actually still very resonant nowadays). Although things take a turn for the better when the true Aslan appears, the loss of the world we’ve become used to is very moving (and having Digory there at start and finish a lovely touch). Lewis’s writing is still stellar, though; in the same way as he painted some marvellous word pictures with the creation of Narnia in “The Magician’s Nephew”, he deals with its end equally brilliantly, leaving you quite stunned and emotional. Having almost all the human characters together is wonderful, though I’m sure I’m not alone in regretting Lewis’s dismissal of Susan; presumably she’s being used to reject the idea that religion is something childish you should grow out of, but it does come across as a bit of a betrayal of her, and a tad misogynistic.

Re-reading these books now, I certainly found this one to be the most overtly religious of the series. It’s quite obvious what Aslan’s Country is meant to represent, and here Lewis does conjure a beautiful land containing all the countries you might ever want to see. It’s clever to portray this as the *real* version of all worlds too; but I’m not well-versed enough in theology to know if his shadowlands and real world concepts are original. There are a number of explorations of what I would call faith or lack of it, too; the dwarfs are a case in point, declaring “the Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs” and stubbornly refusing to recognise the reality around them. Then there’s the fearsome god Tash; an evil figure, it’s made clear that only bad actions can be done in his name, and any good actions supposedly taken on behalf of Tash are actually in Aslan’s name.

Getting to the end of any immersive series of books, ones where you’ve lived rather than read them, is always an emotional experience, leaving you feeling a little bereft. I certainly always felt so with these books when I was young – and also with the “Lord of the Rings” series. In both cases, I’ve gone through phases of finishing them and going right back to the start to relive the experience; and having now got to the end of the #Narniathon I can still feel that pull to do so… It’s been quite wonderful revisiting this series of books, which were so important to me in my younger years and still are! Thanks to Chris for setting up the #Narniathon – I most likely wouldn’t have gone back to these right now without it, and it really has been a heck of an experience!

May – another swine of a month…

53 Comments

Yes, I suppose that’s a bit of a clickbaity headline but May really *was* exhausting and stressful when it came to the day job… 🙁 I was up against a lot of horrible deadlines and struggled to get uninterrupted time to actually do my job; and as I work in a school, the emotional effect of the awful events in Texas was strong. As you can see from the pile of books I read, I deployed my usual coping mechanism…

So if nothing else, May really was a bumper reading month. There wasn’t a single dud amongst them – each book was marvellous in its own way, and my brain feels thoroughly stimulated and saturated with images and ideas and memorable tales. Not all of these are reviewed yet, and some will be up on Shiny New Books, so look out for reviews and links this month!

Heading into June, I am as usual making very limited plans (which certainly seems to work and keeps me reading what I want, when I want and loving it!) There will, of course, be the final book in the Narniathon, The Last Battle – this is the copy I’ll be reading:

I can’t say that I’m particularly fond of the cover, but my original version is MIA somewhere in the house. We are in the process of having a major declutter and re-organise of the Offspring’s old rooms and so I am hoping it will turn up to be reunited with its fellows, but in the meantime needs must…

The only other event I’m currently trying to follow is the LibraryThing Virago Modern Classics group with our monthly themed reads. I have failed to keep up with the last two months, but June’s choice is books by Virago authors but published by another imprint. I have this fragile old Penguin Penelope Mortimer and may try to get to it during June as she’s an author I keep meaning to read.

Apart from that, I’m intending to read these two titles next – the Poplavsky is coming out this month from Columbia University Press in their Russian Library series and looks to be a wonderful example of Russian emigre writing. The Brackenbury is a reissue from Michael Walmer and she’s been getting quite a bit of attention recently which reminded me I really should read her!

Apart from that I’ll be keeping things loose – where the reading whims take me, that’s where I shall go! What about you – do you have reading plans for June??

 

The creation myth… #Narniathon #MagiciansNephew

33 Comments

Well, we’re up to book 6 of the Narniathon, and I’m quite pleased with myself for sticking to this particular event. Of course, it does help that the books are quite short, but it’s been such an enjoyable experience! Anyway, this month’s episode in C.S. Lewis‘s Narnian adventures, “The Magician’s Nephew” contains what you might call the creation myth of that land, and it was always one of my favourite stories; so I was keen to see how I found it nowadays!

Of course, as we are reading in publication order, some might protest that we should have read this book first. However, the opening paragraph convinces me again (if I needed it) that reading in publication order is the way.

This is a story about something that happened long ago when your grandfather was a child. It is a very important story because it shows all the comings and going between our own world and the land of Narnia first began.

Now for me, that opening presupposes a knowledge of Narnia and all that had gone before in the previous books. If I’d read this first, I would have been most puzzled indeed. I expect there are plenty of opposing arguments which could be flung at me, but I shall stick to my guns and am happy to have re-read in what I think is the correct order!

Anyway, to return to “Magician’s…” Lewis goes on to set his scene quite wonderfully, stating:

In those days Mr Sherlock Holmes was still living in Baker Street and the Bastables were looking for treasure in the Lewisham Road. In those days, if you were a boy you had to wear a stiff Eton collar every day, and schools were usually nastier than now. But meals were nice; and as for sweets, I won’t tell you how cheap and good they were, because it would only make your mouth water in vain. And in those days there lived in London a girl called Polly Plummer.

Polly will be one of the main protagonists of this story, along with her next door neighbour, Digory Kirke; the latter is staying with his aunt and uncle, the brother and sister Andrew and Letty Ketterly, and things are not going well. Digory’s mother is also staying and she’s very poorly. If that wasn’t bad enough, Uncle Andrew is a strange and unpleasant man, and frankly Digory is having an awful time. Polly proves to be a good friend, and the children decide to explore the attic of their houses; as they live in a row of terraces, these are all joined and so the children in theory can walk from one end of the terrace to the other. However, they miscalculate and leave the attic into Uncle Andrew’s study.

Here, the real adventures begin, as this most peculiar man has been meddling with magic he really doesn’t understand and has made some magic rings. Having tested them on disappearing guinea pigs, he now wants a more communicative subject to try them out and tricks Polly into putting one on and vanishing. Digory is forced to go after her to try to rescue her, and they find themselves in The Wood Between the Worlds, a tranquil place full of ponds. Using the magic rings, the children can jump into those ponds and be transported away to new worlds. From here they explore other lands, encounter a sinister witch and then witness a world being born. However, evil and temptation are threatening them and the new land of Narnia; will the children have the strength to do the right thing, can they get back to their own world, and will Digory’s mother survive?

As I thought back over the plot of this book, I realised just how much Lewis had incorporated into his story, how engrossing it was and how the pace never flags for a moment!! The sheer richness of the book is mightly impressive, and there are so many wonderful elements – the rampages of the witch, Jadis, round Victorian London; the treatment of Uncle Andrew by the talking animals of Narnia; the darkness and bleakness of Charn; and all of these are enhanced by Pauline Baynes’ marvellous illustrations. The book succeeds in mingling elements of classic Victorian children’s fiction with its adventures, and the magical world of Narnia, and it’s a marvellous read from start to finish.

I found the religious elements quite noticeable in this story, but again this wasn’t a problem; the ‘Adam and Eve’ figures of the new world, the temptation of the apple, the opposing evil figure are all familiar from biblical stories. Yet Narnia has an identity of its own, and some of the writing is so beautiful; the sequence where Aslan literally sings the world into being is stunning and moving. The story ends with happy resolution and what is perhaps a warning from Lewis about the way our world is developing into a dead land like Charn:

… you are growing more like it. It is not certain that some wicked one of your race will not find out a secret as evil as the Deplorable Word and use it to destroy all living things. And soon, very soon, before you are an old man and an old woman, great nations in your world will be ruled by tyrants who care no more for joy and justice and mercy than the Empress Jadis. Let your world beware.

“The Magician’s Nephew” is a wonderful, powerful piece of storytelling, and as you can probably tell I absolutely loved revisiting it after all these years. I don’t know about Aslan, but Lewis’s world-building skills are just marvellous – Charn, The Wood Between the Worlds, London in the past and Narnia itself are brilliantly realised and it was a wrench to leave this story. The last few pages link the story back to “Lion…” in a way that would only make sense if you’d already read the book; and I suspect I may end up after the next instalment wanting to go back to the beginning of the Narnia stories and read them all over again, just like I always feel with the “Lord of the Rings” books. The Narniathon really is a most wonderful experience!

#1954 – a boy, a girl and two talking horses! #narniathon21

25 Comments

If you’re a regular visitor to the Ramblings, you’ll know that I’m taking part in a monthly readalong of C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books, under the title of #Narniathon21, organised by Chris at Calmgrove. And very fortunately the book for April is “The Horse and His Boy” which just happens to have been published in 1954 – wonderful timing there! I’ve greatly enjoyed my revisits to Narnia so far, as I adored the books as a child, but haven’t re-read them for decades; however, I approached “Horse…” with a little trepidation, as it’s the one I feel I know least well, and I have memories of not being particularly fond of it…

“The Horse and His Boy” was the fifth book to be published in the Narnia chronicles, and it takes a step away from what might be considered the usual formula. The first four books run in sequence, with each shedding a few of the characters from the previous book(s) and introducing new ones; although there are gaps in time between events (which are longer in Narnia than in our world), the books do follow on. However, the events of “Horse…” (which were actually mentioned in passing within the previous book) are ‘historical’, in that they take place during the reign of the four Pevensie children from “Lion…” If one were to read the books in the modern suggested chronological order, this would actually be the third – and frankly, I’m even more convinced that would be rubbish after doing my reread in the published order!! But I digress…

“Horse…” opens ‘far south in Calormen’ where a young boy called Shasta lives near the sea with his father, a fisherman. His is not a happy life, however; his father is often cruel, Shasta spends all of his time working, and when he has a chance to dream, his heart is drawn to the landscape of the north. However, when a rich Calormene noble appears and wants to buy the boy, Shasta discovers that he’s not actually the fisherman’s son; and when he also discovers that the nobleman’s horse is a talking one from Narnia called Bree, the pair agree to run away and head for Narnia and the north. Fortunately, Bree has a lot of horse sense, as Shasta is brash and naive; but the pair manage to avoid some perils and at one point while encountering fierce lions, they run into Aravis, a Calormene princess who is running away from an arranged marriage. She also has a Narnian horse, Hwinn, and the quartet join forces to try to escape the barbarian country; however, encounters with visting Narnians will reveal even more secrets, and tensions between the two countries will lead to dramatic battle.

Well – I actually enjoyed “Horse…” a whole lot more than I expected to, and it’s obvious I hadn’t read it as much as the other Narnia books because I had forgotten how much involvement there was from the Narnian people themselves! The book is a marvellous adventure, with the party getting split up and reunited, flights across the desert dividing Calormen on the south from Narnia and Archenland in the North, and of course various characters (including Bree!) learning some lessons from Aslan. The latter dips in and out of the story, and his punishment for a transgression of Aravis’s is quite harsh! But the book was a wonderfully satisfying read, and I’m sorry I neglected it in the past. I suspect that the spacing out of the books to monthly reads does help – that gap allows the previous book to settle and the mind to prepare for the next adventure.

Reading “Horse…” nowadays, however, is not without its problems. The portrayal of the Calormene people has led to accusations of racism, and it’s true that they certainly conform to the kind of stereotypes you would expect from a man of Lewis’s background, writing when he was writing. This is unfortunate, and I was aware of it in the background as I was reading; although Lewis does portray Aravis positively, and the Narnian royalty visiting Calormen treat their hosts with respect. It’s a knotty issue, one which often comes up reading older books; and my personal response is to acknowledge that a work was written in a time when this kind of attitude prevailed, and hope that we have moved on from it. Alas, in our modern, conflicted world I don’t know that’s always the case.

Putting that aside, though, I really enjoyed spending time with Bree and Shasta, Hwinn and Aravis, and I do think “Horse…” is a worthy part of the Narnia series. It gives a wider look at Narnia and its environs, allows us to see some of the Pevensies in Narnia while they were ruling, and of course deepens our relationship with Aslan. 1954 was quite a year for fantasy books for adults and children, coming from the pens of a pair of professors; “Horse…” was a marvellous read, and it will be interesting to see what Lewis’s friend Tolkien was up to at the same time… 😉

Rolling into April – and the #1954Club!! :D

48 Comments

Despite the fact that March brings warmer days and lovely welcome signs of spring, it’s not always my favourite month; as I work in finance, the financial year end and planning for the year ahead always dominate, with lots of horrible pressure and deadlines. So I have to say that April, and the impending Easter break, are very welcome at the moment!!

So how did my reading go last month? Well, possibly a little slower than usual – I must admit to feeling more tired than usual and so my concentration wasn’t brilliant. However, these are the books I read and loved – and loved them I mostly did! Even “Marching Spain”, which was a book with a few issues, still had its plus points!

March 22 reads

I always hate to pick favourites, but with this month I feel it’s pretty much impossible! So many great books and great authors – some old favourites and some new discoveries. Much bookish enjoyment has been had.

So – what does April have in store, book-wise? There are a few reading events which I’m continuing to take part in. First up is the LibraryThing Virago group monthly themed read, and this month is books with a name in the title. A quick scour of the shelves reveals these as just a few of the possibles! Although I’m still playing catch up with March (my review of the book I read will turn up here soon), these are all very appealing!

I’ve managed to stick to the #Narniathon so far, and April’s book is the fifth in the series, “The Horse and His Boy”. This is definitely the Narnia book I’ve read least, for reasons which will no doubt become clear! However, I shall definitely revisit it this month!

And by a wonderful coincidence, “Horse…” was published in 1954 and therefore is perfect for the main event this month – the #1954Club reading week which I’ve very much looking forward to co-hosting with Simon from Stuck in a Book! I find it hard to believe this will be the 14th club week we’ve hosted – how time flies!

Some possibilities for 1954!

If you haven’t joined in with one of these events before, basically just read whatever you fancy from 1954 and share your thoughts on it on whatever platform  you use – a blog, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads etc. There will be a dedicated page on my site for you to leave links and so we will very much look forward to hearing about the books you’re reading and loving!!

Apart from this (which *will* take up a good bit of my time in April) I shall continue to plough my own furrow and go where the mood takes me. These are a few current books clamouring for my attention and any of them would be wonderfully distracting right now – does anything take your fancy on the pile??

So I’m hoping for a good reading month in April; certainly having a break from work may well help me to relax and read a little more, and maybe even get out into any spring sunshine! What are your plans for April – will you be joining us for 1954??? ;D

Journeying to the underworld… #narniathon #thesilverchair

28 Comments

March’s books for the #Narniathon readalong of C.S. Lewis‘s Narnia stories is “The Silver Chair”, the fourth book in the series; you can read my thoughts on the first three here, here and here! Like those volumes, I felt I remembered “Silver…” reasonably well and was keen to see how I’d find it. Well, I loved it as much as my revisits to the first three books, although some elements stood out to me more this time round!

As the book opens, we find ourselves in a boarding school of the 1950s; this is no Blyton-style happy Malory Towers, though, as “Experiment House” is a progressive outfit where the older, bullying children appear to be in charge. Eustace Scubb (from “Voyage…”) attends the place and encounters a fellow student, Jill Pole, crying behind the gym as the bullies have been at her. Eustace has obviously changed since his adventures in Narnia, and as he comforts Jill they hear the nasties approaching. As they run off to escape, a portal suddenly transports them to Narnia. Having escaped their horrible surroundings in our world, will they find Narnia any better?

Well, yes and no. An encounter with Aslan does not go as planned, the children get separated and when they do meet up again they are off on a quest to rescue a lost prince, Rilian son of Caspian, in company with a very interesting character! This is Puddleglum, a Marsh-wiggle, who seems rather like a cross between a human and a frog, and he’s a wonderfully lugubrious addition to the story. The three protagonists have to journey north, through Ettinsmoor to Harfang and the ruined city of the giants, with only a series of four signs given to Jill by Aslan for guidance. However, there will by many perils on the way, not least encounters with a beautiful woman and a strange knight, and some rather alarming giants. And our three travellers will have to face their fears and journey deep into the underworld to bring their quest to fruition…

And out of that cave they passed into another, and then into another and another, and so on till Jill lost count, but always they were going downhill and each cave was lower than the last, till the very thought of the weight and depth of the earth above you was suffocating.

Interestingly, my memories of the book were mainly centred around the underground section of the story, and this may be because I’m a bit claustrophobic. However, the sections leading up to this soon came back to me as I was reading, and I was yet again seduced by Lewis’s storytelling skills – this is exactly the sort of book I loved to read as a child. His setting and landscapes are so wonderfully conjured (and there’s a lovely map at the start from Pauline Baynes). The different types the travellers encounter, from giants to the Earthmen who live down in the darkness, are all vividly painted and Lewis’s imagination was just stupendous!

Of course, this time round I could pick up more of the mythology involved, particularly with adventures like crossing an underground sea in a boat which was most evocative. The giants and their behaviour brought back fairy tales and nursery rhymes, and of course a prince being held captive by a sorceress is not a new idea! All of these elements were wonderfully mixed into Lewis’s story, though, and it was a treat to read.

As I mentioned at the start of this post, I did find some elements more noticeable reading this book as an adult. The religious element is pretty obvious, with Aslan setting the children a task which goes wrong from the start in effect because the children were displaying negative elements (Jill was ‘showing off’). So the quest was a form of redemption it seems, and incorporated what as an atheist I see is an unnecessary complication of religion. Why create an imperfect race and leave them to make a mess of things, rather than create a nice world with nice people in it? Yes, there needs to be a quest to keep us interested in the story (and I *was* interested); but this is the first of the books where the Christian subtext seemed to me slightly too overt.

However, despite that, I did love my revisit to this Narnian tale. Jill and Eustace are a good pair of questers, Puddleglum is a perfect delight, with his constant looking on the negative side of things, and the writing is as good as ever. I’ve lost myself in each of these books, feeling as if I was living the story alongside the characters; part of this is, I expect, the fact that I’ve had a strong connection with them since childhood. But it’s also a tribute to C.S. Lewis’s ability to spin an absorbing and transporting story which works for me as an adult as well as for me as a child!

So once again I had a wonderful experience revisiting Narnia and its lovely cast of characters; the quest is engrossing, the setting unforgettable and the ending wonderfully satisfying. I must thank Chris for setting up the Narniathon as I’m sure I never would have revisited these books at the moment without that prompt, and I’m thoroughly enjoying it. However, next month’s book is going to be extra intruguing (and is actually trailed in “Silver…” even though it hadn’t been published yet), as I remember little or nothing about it – watch this space to see how I get on…!

February…. where did it go???? #ReadIndies

30 Comments

February is a short month, and somehow when we’re doing a #ReadIndies it seems to disappear even more quickly than usual. It’s not been the happiest of months around the world either, with conflicts breaking out, and our Government making what I feel are really bad decisions about the way we handle the pandemic. As usual, books have been my refuge, although my reading has been slow this month. I’ve read some really good titles, though, and here they are:

Quite a varied selection for February and certainly no duds. Again, I always hate picking out favourites, but “The Investigator“, “The Undercurrents” and “Brainspotting” were particularly stunning reads!

February was blessed by half-term, but unfortunately March will be one of my busiest working times of the year. So I am keep plans light – we will of course continue with the #ReadIndies extension, which I’m very happy about. I’ll also plan to read the next book for the #Narniathon which is this one:

I remember – well, claustrophobia, really! So we’ll see what I make of it as an adult! The Virago monthly reads continue, with the theme being an author who only has one book in the publisher’s list. I’m rather tempted by either of these two, but we shall see!

Apart from that, I’ll try to dip into the #Dewithon and #ReadIreland events if I can.

With general reading, here are just some of the titles catching my eye at the moment – anything there you’ve read and enjoyed?

Most of all, I shall read what I fancy during March; when life is giving you lemons, I say avoid them and pick up a good book; and despite the horrors of real life I shall continue to share my love of books here – anything to help counteract negativity… 😦

Seaborne explorations… #Narniathon #VoyageOfTheDawnTreader

23 Comments

It’s time for episode three of the tales of Narnian adventures, and I’m happy to say that so far I’ve managed to stick to the monthly schedule. After last month’s ‘bridging’ book, “Prince Caspian“, we move on to “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”, a title I remember as being one of my favourites of the Narnia stories – so I was keen to see what I made of it nowadays…

At the end of “Caspian…” the four Pevensies are returned to ‘our’ world and Aslan breaks the news to Peter and Susan that they won’t be able to return to Narnia. And as “Voyage…” opens the family has been split up, with Susan and her parents touring America, Peter cramming for exams and the two youngest staying with their aunt, uncle and beastly cousin Eustace Clarence Scrubb. The family Scrubb are described in very unflattering terms as being “vegetarians, nonsmokers, teetotallers, pacifists, (who) wore a special kind of underclothes ” and it’s clear that Edmund and Lucy won’t fit in, particularly as Eustace takes every opportunity to bully his guests. However, the two siblings have each other for solace, as well as a wonderful painting of a ship which looks remarkably Narnian and reminds them of their other country. And one day, when Eustace is being particularly nasty, it’s this painting that suddenly comes to life and drags the trio back into Narnia.

Fortunately, the ship is that of their old friend Caspian, and the three children are rescued. Eustace is, of course, miserable and a total pain, whereas the Pevensies are delighted to be reunited with Caspian and also the talking mouse, Reepicheep. Caspian has set forth on a quest to sail to the East in search of the Seven Lost Lords of Narnia – although Reepicheep’s aim is more dramatic…

So the party sail over the seas encountering many dramatic situations; from slavers to dragons, a mysterious Magician to fallen stars, the adventures of the travellers are wonderfully and vividly painted. Eventually, however, the ship starts to reach the farthest Eastern point to which it can journey, and it is here decisions have to be made…

Most of us know what we should expect to find in a dragon’s lair, but, as I said before, Eustace had read only the wrong books. They had a lot to say about exports and imports and governments and drains, but they were weak on dragons.

Well – I was expecting to enjoy “Voyage…” a lot, because I always remember it as one of my favourites, and I was mightily impressed with it all over again. It’s a brilliantly constructed, inventive and involving story from start to finish, and I can see why I loved it so much as a child. I suppose you could regard this as the quintessential quest story; a group setting out from its home, making all sorts of discoveries on routes with dark adventures and soul seeking, and then finally reaching their destination where everything will be changed for some of them. And the adventures really are quite marvellously done – from the comedy of the mysterious invisible people on the Magician’s island to the sheer terror of the Dark island which does rather lurk in the brain…

(Lucy) spent a good deal of time sitting on the little bench in the stern playing chess with Reepicheep. It was amusing to see him lifting the pieces, which were far too big for him, with both paws and standing on tiptoes if he made a move near the centre of the board. He was a good player and when he remembered what he was doing he usually won. But every now and then Lucy won because the Mouse did something quite ridiculous like sending a knight into the danger of a queen and castle combined. This happened because he had momentarily forgotten it was a game of chess and was thinking of a real battle and making the knight do what he would certainly have done in its place. For his mind was full of forlorn hopes, death or glory charges, and last stands.

As for the characters, well in some ways Eustace’s behaviour is a little bit reministent of how Edmund was in the first book, and the changes he has to go through to become a better person are not easy for him. There are, of course, morals dotted about the book – Eustace’s fate being one, and the Dark Island’s description of the place where dreams come true being another. Lucy is put to the test at one point in the adventures as well, and it’s left to Edmund to be the mature and sensible one, and to support Eustace too. Reepicheep is a joy – one of my favourites in the whole Narnia series – and his determination to see his destiny through is admirable and poignant.

Once again, I really do have to note what a marvellous storyteller Lewis was. This book drew me in right from the start, and the end sections in particular, where the ship begins to reach the far East, are so wonderfully evocative. Lewis brilliantly captures the strangeness of the seascape through which the ship is travelling, the weirdness and the effect it has on the travellers, in a way that transported me there with them. Just fabulous, and what an inventive mind Lewis had.

As for Aslan, his appearances are mostly fleeting in this book, with him being more of a background prescence, at least until the end. There *is* a point where a more explicit message is given about what he might represent, particularly in our world, but again I didn’t have any problem with Lewis’s agenda here; from my point of view, this is just a marvellously written, wonderfully readable book.

My reading of “Voyage…” is not, of course, an objective one, as I’m beginning to realise with the whole sequence, as I read and loved these books so many times in my childhood that I now understand they’re pretty much engraved into my psyche! Nevertheless, revisiting this one as an adult I was totally enthralled with the adventure all over again; Lewis’s amazing storytelling is evocative enough on its own, but again Pauline Baynes’ drawings are the perfect enhancement and the reading experience was a wonderful one. Only three books in, but this one is definitely a favourite and has a special place in my heart – and I’m very much looking forward to continuing with these next month!

#Narniathon – that difficult second album…

34 Comments

So we return to the #Narniathon today for the second book in the sequence, which we’re reading in publication order, and my heading to this post is perhaps a little facetious… However, I haven’t read “Prince Caspian” for many, many years so confess to feeling I was on less safe ground than with “Lion….”. Onward and upward – these books are a quick read for a grown-up like me so how did I find my encounter with book 2?

Well, actually, I enjoyed it very much. The book opens with the four Pevensie children being yanked unexpectedly back into Narnia, but it’s a Narnia which seems much changed. There’s no sign of talking animals or trees, the landscape is different and the children are at a loss. Sheltering in an old, overgrown ruin, they discover by chance hints that the time which has passed between the Pevensies’ visits may be longer than they thought; and when they rescue a dwarf from some soldiers set on drowning him they learn about the current rulers of Narnia and the tasks which they may be up against. Narnia’s heir apparent is the titular Prince, descenced from Telmarines, a people from far beyond the Western mountains; although his Uncle, Miraz, is planning to wrest control from the Prince for his own heir. Will the Pevensie children be able to wake Old Narnia from its slumber and defeat the incomers, and will Aslan return to the land?

Reading “Prince Caspian” now was an enjoyable experience, although perhaps tempered by the fact that I knew what had happened while the Pevensies were away so the element of discovering things alongside them which a first-time reader would get was missing. However, the story is a good and pacy one, which doesn’t mess about and gets on with doing what it needs to do, and it seems to me that much of what Lewis intended here was to expand his fictional world from the basic set up in “Lion…”. So Narnia is no longer a country alone, but one place surrounded by other countries and susceptible to invasion. The magical elements seem native to the place, and the invaders more straightforwardly human (and potentially more stupid), and therefore fearful of the Old Narnians once they begin to re-emerge.

So “Prince…” moves the whole story along, setting up basic concepts which will recur during the series: different timespans for our world and Narnia, often leading to a large gap of time when the humans return to the place which allows for the history of Narnia to develop apace (and presumably gives Lewis more freedom with his storytelling); regular quests to save characters from evil and return Narnia to a happier state; and the introduction of a wider landscape of surrounding peoples to give more scope to the plots. All of this opens up Lewis’s alternative world a bit more, and it’s one of the reasons I enjoy reading the books in publication order – that’s how he created them and that’s how he gradually constructed his world.

The return of Aslan was interestingly done, too, and much emphasis was put on individual courage, doing the right thing when it’s really difficult and making the correct choices. That’s the moral, Christian side coming through, I suppose, though it didn’t seem too heavy handed, and instilling some decent morals into young people is something I can approve of nowadays, being an old bat myself… Certainly, Aslan doesn’t makes things easy for the Pevensies and their team, but all come through with flying colours. There is again a lovely set of characters, including the wonderful Bulgy Bears, Trufflehunter the Badger, Trumpkin the Dwarf, Reepicheep the Mouse (a personal favourite) and Dr. Cornelius, Caspian’s tutor and a vital part of the ‘good’ side. As for the baddies, they’re fairly easy to pick out (I would imagine I thought so even as a child) and although Lewis is dealing with people in fairly black and white terms, there are nuances in places and the acknowledgement that if certain characters had had different breaks in life they would have turned out better.

“Prince Caspian” *is* perhaps that ‘difficult second album’, an idea beloved to music journalists, because Lewis had to take the success of a brilliant concept in “Lion…” and develop it into something more which could be the subject of many stories. The plot seems perhaps a little thinner in places, but there are once again wonderful pieces of writing, Lewis’s masterly storytelling and some memorable creations – the history of the Telmarines, for example, and their method of return to their real homeland is quite brilliantly done and I found myself moved all over again by that part. And the book is of course enhanced by Pauline Baynes’s wonderful illustrations – what a talent she was!

So I did enjoy book two of the Narnia stories very much, and I’m also pleased I’ve stuck to the event so far (and hey! I’m *re-reading* books for pleasure!!!) Next up is “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”, of which I have fairly clear memories and I know that Reepicheep will take a major part – roll on February!

 

Welcoming 2022 with some tentative reading plans… 😳😊

40 Comments

Following on from yesterday’s highlights of 2021, it’s first of all time to wish you all a very Happy New Year! Let’s hope that 2022 is a little less fractious than last year was… I did promise that I would take a look today at possible reading plans and events which might be coming up, although as usual I’m a bit reluctant to commit to too much as I always prefer to following my reading whims!

Of course, I’m already involved in one event which started appropriately enough in December and is carrying on into 2022 – the Narniathon! I really enjoyed my reacquaintance with “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” last month, and January will see me reading “Prince Caspian“. I’m hoping that because the books are slim I should be able to keep up the momentum.

January *is*. however, a month with some challenges, and I shall most definitely be taking part in! The first is the Japanese Literature Challenge, hosted by Meredith and you can find out more about this here.

Some lovely Mishimas and an intriguing collection from Uno Chiyo

As you can see from the image, there are some titles which are immediately shouting at me from the TBR, but it wouldn’t take me long to pick out some more!

Then there’s the first of Annabel’s challenges, NORDIC Finds, which features books from any of the five Nordic countries – Finland, Iceland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden.

Tove Ditlevsen and Edith Sodergran – both intriguing possibilities for January!

Again I do have a few obvious titles shouting at me from the TBR, any one of which would be a lovely read; but I’d also be keen to explore further from any of the countries. I read a *lot* of Scandi-crime and a fair amount of Icelandic crime pre-blog so I’m not sure if I would revisit these. But there’s lot’s more out there and Annabel has more guidance on her blog, plus a list of featured books for each week.

Then there’s the LibraryThing Virago Modern Classics group monthly themed read. January is for books featuring nuns, teachers or governesses, and a quick dig in the TBR revealed these possible unread titles:

The two Kate Fansler titles are perhaps stretching things a little, as she’s a university lecturer turned detective, but they *are* Viragos, so we shall see!

Added to all this, there’s the temptation of Twitter readalongs, and two are calling at the moment – Finnegans Wake and Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet. I really would like to commit to these two, but frankly am not sure if I would keep up – I anticipate it being a bit manic when I return to work next week, so we shall have to see…

Apart from these events, if I’m truly honest I would like to make a big dent in Mount TBR; it has grown considerably over the Christmas period, as you might have seen, and some of the older books on it could probably do with a bit of a prune. Meantime, here are some titles which are calling particularly strongly; whether I will have the brain space for them when I go back to work next week is another matter, but I will certainly try!!

Lots of very inviting titles…

So, plenty of choices for me… Are there any there which appeal to you? And do you have reading plans for 2022 or are you just prepared to wing it?? 🤣🤣

Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: