Oh, this one was a hard one to rank. It was a three when I first picked it up, a two when I first put it down, a four when I picked it up again years...moreOh, this one was a hard one to rank. It was a three when I first picked it up, a two when I first put it down, a four when I picked it up again years later, and a three when I put it back down a second time. I was determined to knock off a lot of low-hanging almost-finished fruit from my TBR pile this weekend, and I finally read the last thirty pages. So, hey, let's average this out to a three? Ish?
This is one of those books that tragically reinforces my extreme reluctance to get rid of books. My mom gave me this for Christmas lo those many moons ago, knowing it was a good fit for me just because of the blurb quote about how at some point, during any gathering of people, no matter how much the author loves those people, she realizes she would rather be reading. My mother, perspicacious woman that she is, recognized her wee darling in that sentence.
And, yes, that is sort of what this book is about. But only sort of. It's also got a huge whack of general audience literary criticism of female action-adventure novels, detective novels, and Catholic secular saint novels. Which turns out to be fascinating to me, once I got over expecting to read about how one balances the desire to be with people with the desire to read. I was sorely disappointed when I first put the book down, midway through the first literary criticism section, but I came back to it a few years later, and it was exactly what I wanted to read.
What was the difference between Read #1 and Read #2? The internet, I think. I have learned far more - absorbed far more - about feminism and women in fiction and women who write and so much of the stuff that my literature degree attempted to beat in my head, so I was far, far more appreciative of the discussion of women and books and women in books and women writing books in this book after a few years knocking around the internet than I was after three years of Serious Literature Classes. (Okay, part of that is probably because I spent much of the time I should have been studying Serious Literature going to Rocky Horror, writing papers on Rocky Horror and the Exorcist, and discovering the wild and woolly world of internet media fandom. Slog through Anna Karenina or the Sith Academy, hmmm, that's a toughie. ) What seemed a bit dry and a bit pointless on first read was far more engaging the second time around.
And then, hm, I kind of got bored during the Catholic secular saint portion of the competition (a bit of a letdown after the female action-adventure novel section and the detective novel section, both of which I had vested interests in), and I put it down for another year or so. Picked it up again, found Corrigan's writing style just as charming as I did the second time around, and was delighted by the reading list at the back of the book.
Recommended, at least for those interested in easy reading lit crit. The bits about a life lived with books feel a bit like a framing device, albeit a lovely one. (less)
**spoiler alert** Loved it. Exactly the right book at exactly the right time. Perhaps the most scathing indictment of reality television I've ever rea...more**spoiler alert** Loved it. Exactly the right book at exactly the right time. Perhaps the most scathing indictment of reality television I've ever read, even as that's not what it's "actually" about. I have to say, once again I far more enjoy the way young adult authors tackle quasi-moralistic fables in a science fiction/fantasy setting than "regular" authors do (I'm looking at you, Margaret Atwood), mostly because they (especially Suzanne Collins here and in the sequel) do not forget that above all, they are telling a story. A story that pulls you along willy-nilly.
Our Heroine reminds me a lot of Tally from Uglies, but I like Katniss much better. She strikes a very good sixteen for me - mature by nature and circumstance, with strange and vulnerable naivetes.
I will also admit to a shallower appreciation of this book, as it hits a similar note to some of my v. shallow enjoyment of The Fire Rose - it does an excellent job of describing deprivation, and then it does an even better job of describing the relief of that deprivation. I have a higher tolerance for loving food descriptions than most, but I found these particularly well-timed and appreciated.
I like that the book didn't punk out. Kids go in; kids kill; kids die. I don't know what the fascination is with these Thunderdome-y situations (see also: The Long Walk, Battle Royale), but they are strangely compelling, even more so when the hero/heroine doesn't find a loophole that leads to a happy ending. Sure, there's a loophole here, but it certainly doesn't lead to a happy ending.
Mostly I'm just still hung up on the fact that there are stylists and death matches featured with equal prominence. It's like Bravo tv on LSD. (less)
More later, I'm sure, but so's I don't forget: lovely world-building; love the action-adventure-murder-mystery stuff; transition between action novel...moreMore later, I'm sure, but so's I don't forget: lovely world-building; love the action-adventure-murder-mystery stuff; transition between action novel and romance novel sections a little jarring; race issues not as dodgy as they could be (yay?); am appalled at how many people LOVED the hero, as I found him wretchedly domineering in a not-fun rapey kind of way (I'm sorry - she said stop; he didn't, and I don't care how bad he felt after the fact or how drunk they were or how there were actual consequences yet resolution because they looooove each other, that's pretty non-consensual in my book and NOT OKAY); but mostly if Scarsdale doesn't get his own book with his own dudely love interest, I am going to be WILDLY disappointed (though not surprised). (less)
There is pretty much nothing I did not love about this reread, whether it was the hazy fondness of nostalgia or the sheer delight from the story in an...moreThere is pretty much nothing I did not love about this reread, whether it was the hazy fondness of nostalgia or the sheer delight from the story in and of itself.
Oh, Will Stanton. I adore him at thirty almost as much as I did at ten. I love how visceral both his fear and wonder are. I love HIS FAMILY. Sorry, Drews; the Stantons kick your ass. I love the push and pull between Will-as-Old-One and Will-as-youngest-Stanton - the contrast between Wise Magical Dude and little boy never fails to delight.
This is the real introduction for this series, I find. This is the book of learning, the reveal. In some ways, I feel like Over Sea Under Stone is the Magician's Nephew of this series: sure, technically it may occur first chronologically, but I think reading it first is dumb (and that's only slightly because I started with this book first myself). This is the book that invites the reader into the realm of secret knowledge, just like Will gets.
And, for me, that's kind of the heart of why I like Will (and Bran, later on) better than the Drews. For all that the Drews are the human perspective on mystical stuff, the touchstone for those of us sadly outside of the Light and Dark, that's not what I want. I - especially ten year old me - didn't want the normal kids; I wanted to identify with the boy plucked from mundanity and welcomed wholeheartedly by magic. (I suppose see also: Harry Potter, but Will had my heart first.) I wanted to know more about the kid who found he had Phenomenal Cosmic Powers but also fucked up from time to time, because, hey, he's eleven, and the magic is amazing but terrifying. "Tomorrow will be beyond imagining" still gives me shivers.
Merriman and Hawkin broke my heart all over again.
I'd also forgotten just how much I love the setting for the story - the small town, the mysterious manor house, the familiar (for Will; English countryside was a delightful foreign prospect for me at ten) suddenly filled with Import and Meaning, Christmas, and the snow. Makes me want to curl up under a blanket, drink something warm, and reread it all over again.
And, oh! The music! Moreso than even the other Dark is Rising books, the music was a constant presence here. I think this is in part because it's set at Christmas-time, so I at least was more familiar with the songs used (and could therefore 'hear' them better in the context of the story), in addition to the Special Music Of The Light. Will and James singing together! (and Merriman's predictions about their voices!) Paul and his flute!
Which just reminds me of the first of many memory-based heartbreaking moments in this series - when Will wants to confide in Paul, tries, but it doesn't work, so he has to make him forget. I'm okay with this in this book (check back with me in Silver on the Tree omg), particularly because I like how Cooper balances the distance and logic of Will-the-Old-One with the disappointment and loneliness of Will-the-little-boy who is realizing just how separate from his family he's now become.
Also, Merriman is pretty much Morgan Freeman in my head. It makes his grand intonations and proclamations even! better! Just thought I'd share. (less)
**spoiler alert** And thus begins the Great Childhood Novel Reread of 2011. Alas that Over Sea, Under Stone does not hold up as well as I'd like. It w...more**spoiler alert** And thus begins the Great Childhood Novel Reread of 2011. Alas that Over Sea, Under Stone does not hold up as well as I'd like. It was never my favorite of the Dark is Rising sequence, but I did love me some Jane Drew back when I was her age.
Turns out, fifteen years down the line, that the Drews are just not particularly interesting on their own. Jane in particular does not wear as well as I'd hoped - in this novel in particular, her defining characteristic seems to be "the girl," and my identification with her as a child has not held up into adulthood.
The bad bits: the Drews just aren't as compelling as a) I remembered them or b) the other characters in the series; there's some "let's pretend we're about to be eaten by the natives in the jungle" stuff in the beginning that was atmospheric at age 12 but is pretty icky at 30; and the worst possible insult that anyone can hurl is "girl." Also, you know, just a titch boring.
The good bits: MERRIMAN. MERRIMAN. MERRIMAN. This book is amazing to go back and reread once you know all the backstory, just to appreciate the little snippets that are dropped oh-so-casually every time Gumerry appears. I started the series way back when with The Dark Is Rising, so the WHEE MERRIMAN! reaction has been a part of my Reading Experience for this book every single time. It's the thrill of knowing a character's secret identity that Cooper does so well throughout the whole series.
It's like, well, I get what Cooper is trying to do with this book - outsider POV! a gentle introduction to the mythology! relatable, human characters! - and it should be things that I love - outsider POV! mythology introduction! a slice of humanity in the grand scale of things - but I just! don't! care! I want more of the Old Ones! I want more of the actual battle, not just the side view that the Drews get. I think once I lost my identification with Jane Drew (which, honestly, was based primarily on the fact that she was The Girl), the other things that I love just didn't add up enough to overcome some of the dullness.
To use a more current reference, I feel like this book is sort of in the same place as Megan Whalen Turner's The Thief is, at least as for location in a series as relevant to overall mythology, but I - and this is heresy to 12-year-old me - liked The Thief better.
And, honestly? When I say "dull"? I really just mean "dull in comparison to my mad, unholy infatuation with at least three of the other four books." (Greenwitch drags juuuuuuust a tad as well.) (less)
**spoiler alert** A lesson worth learning: it's often not worth paying for what the internet does better elsewhere for free.
Some exquisite pining and...more**spoiler alert** A lesson worth learning: it's often not worth paying for what the internet does better elsewhere for free.
Some exquisite pining and lovely gay!Watson and asexual!Holmes (maybe? the author seemed a bit unclear) and mysteries revolving around unspoken sexuality, but you give me that much pining, that much devastation at Reichenbach, and all you leave me with is a single kiss and "then we moved back into Baker Street and solved lots of mysteries" and "solved lots of mysteries" isn't even a dodgy euphemism? No, I think not.
Yes, yes, I fully believe in the possibility of a happy platonic ending for Holmes and Watson, even this Holmes and Watson, but you don't give me all that angst and wrap it up with a single kiss and some platonic fondness.
Party foul, I say. Thank god for the rest of the internet. (less)