An entertaining and touching book, if a bit slight for my tastes. Vivid scenes come along periodically, like Mary and Colin's first midnight meeting (An entertaining and touching book, if a bit slight for my tastes. Vivid scenes come along periodically, like Mary and Colin's first midnight meeting (as well as their later face-off during one of Colin's tantrums), Colin's room full of Dickon's managerie of creatures, and, my favorite, Ben Weatherstaff's fury at discovering the kids in the garden for the first time. More prominent than the plot or the characters is the driving philosophy of the book--clearly Frances Hodgson Burnett is a sort of mystic ("magic" comes up quite a bit), a fervent believer in the healing potential of nature, especially when we as humans embrace our roles as caretakes and lovers of all life. The garden also stands in as the rich, magical inner life of children--just as the garden has been neglected for ten years, so have Mary and Colin. Attention, understanding, and love bring both roses and children back to bloom. I'm looking forward to seeing Agnieska Holland's acclaimed film version now....more
Falkner's late-nineteenth century tale of smugglers on the remote coast of southern England is a little bit Twain and a whole lot Stevenson, but despiFalkner's late-nineteenth century tale of smugglers on the remote coast of southern England is a little bit Twain and a whole lot Stevenson, but despite the strong influences, it is enjoyable and often thrilling. Orphan John Trenchard falls in with the only men in his small village of Moonfleet who care about him, but it turns out they are smugglers, landing spirits to circumvent the steep tarriffs imposed by the revenuers who seem to have their spies all around. An ambush, a ghost story, a treasure-hunt, a prison stint, and a horrific shipwreck pretty much sums up the rest. The first half or more of the novel, when John is still a boy, is the most gripping, as he describes his poor village and explores tales of Bluebeard's ghost until he stumbles upon the smuggling ring that uses ghost stories to keep people aware from the cemetery vault they use to stash their goods. The true strength of the novel lies in Falkner's ability to evoke a wretched, decrepit fishing town hanging on for life near a treacherous stretch of the Dorsetshire coast--his descriptions of the town's only road sloping down to the beach and the natural pebble reef that encloses a lagoon and has been the end of many an unfortunate ship created vivid pictures in my imagination as I read. When he writes about the strong surf sucking pebbles off the beach with a deafening roar, I could feel the fear sailors must have when storms tossed them towards that coast. Despite the somewhat derivitive plot, Moonfleet is one of those books with such powerful descriptions that I now want to visit the locations used in the book....more
The Victorian period saw a dramatic rise in the middle class and in the leisure time that this new class had to spend on themselves and their causes.The Victorian period saw a dramatic rise in the middle class and in the leisure time that this new class had to spend on themselves and their causes. Childhood became more important to the middle class and so the first flowering of children's books, a genre that has prospered up until our own time. One of the great Victorian children's novels is Black Beauty, which illustrated the virtues of obedience and cheerfulness, while also bringing the issue of animal abuse into the public eye.
Black Beauty is a truly affecting, first-person (horse?) account from a noble stallion who gets passed from owner to owner and who takes on all sorts of jobs common to horses at the time. Cloying sentiment is non-existent, as the tragic stories of fellow horses such as Ginger and Captain are told soberly. Interestingly, Sewell implies that we are to our animals as God is to us--they do not understand our ways and reasons (see the early discussion on hunting), but it is right for them to accept that we are wiser and to obey us as cheerfully as possible. A plea for compassion and mercy.”...more
Leave it to a Yankee Quaker to write the best-known version of the Robin Hood myth, one that emphasizes Robin's everyman identity and abhorrence of ovLeave it to a Yankee Quaker to write the best-known version of the Robin Hood myth, one that emphasizes Robin's everyman identity and abhorrence of overbearing nobility. This novel, complete with Pyle's incredible illustrations, flies along with all the familiar tales of how Robin meets (and gets bested by) Little John, how he befriends Friar Tuck, and how he disguises himself to enter and win the sheriff's archery tournament. What's different here is that Robin is merely a yeoman (a freeman, rather than a disgraced noble) and Maid Marion is nowhere to be found (one brief mention).
The tone, while carefree in some ways, also emphasizes that Robin and his merry men live in the present, feasting, sporting, and joking, because life will end soon enough. The narrator reminds us time and again that the merry men, once aged, would look back on the old days and sigh, and the constant emphasis on nature and the seasons is yet another reminder that we are part of nature's cycle--Robin may be depicted here in his summer, but his winter would come soon enough. An existential Robin Hood? Yes, but don't let that scare you off from a delightful read. ...more