Lightreads's Reviews > Silver on the Tree

Silver on the Tree by Susan Cooper
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
1836077
's review
Jul 04, 12

bookshelves: fiction, young-adult, fantasy
Read in May, 2012

And now we have to talk about The Thing. Spoilers abound, for once, because I’ve really just gotta get my teeth straight into this.

Before that, though, the rest of the book. It’s . . . honestly, I’m not crazy about it. I remember that this was never one I reread much as a child. Well, that’s not true – I reread the first third all the time, but I’d stop whenever the magic started coming thick and heavy. There is something so wrenching about Will and his brother by the river, about Stephen caring enough to ask, and his blunted adult incomprehension of Will’s answers, the depth of Will’s loss in that moment. Contrast that to the back half of the book, which is having a quite high-level discussion of the production of art, and it just . . . it’s not like it isn’t a good discussion. Cooper is and was a hell of an artist herself, obviously. I’m just not engaging on that level, after the book opens so viscerally.

All right, enough stalling. The Thing.

As a child, the end of this book was arbitrary and cruel because it directly opposed my main interest in fantasy. Nothing unusual about what I was after – I wanted to read about kids having access to a world bigger than the regimented, difficult, pedestrian one I lived in. I wanted to read about kids being able to open a door into power and wonder. And the end of this book slammed the door in all our faces.

This time, of course, I knew what was coming, and as an adult I can follow the argument Cooper has been having about it all along. Mostly in Greenwitch, much to my adult surprise. And it’s . . . look, it’s not like I agree with her. I don’t, to put it bluntly.

But I do get it now, and I think it’s actually some really difficult territory she’s on. Losing the memory of what has happened isn’t a way to strip everyone of the power they’ve accessed; it’s the only way to open the door to a new power and responsibility. That’s what Merriman says, anyway: “For Drake is no longer in his hammock, children,nor is Arthur somewhere sleeping. And you may not lie idly by expecting the second coming of anyone now because the world is yours, and it is up to you.

It makes me think of my favorite monument, which is in fact a “countermonument.” It’s a monument against violence and fascism, a pillar designed, over time, to sink into the ground and disappear. Eventually, the monument space will be empty because, as the monument itself reads, “in the end, it is only we ourselves who can rise up against injustice.”

I love it. It’s a symbol of how collective recovery is a process. We have to remember, but the obtrusion of the memory into the world changes over time – the emotional shadow it casts (literal shadow in this case), its usefulness for the business of living.

Not a perfect analog for the end of this book by a long shot, but thinking about the monument helped me to . . . grow a general respect for the decisions Cooper made. She wrote about the passing of an age, about the ascension of man. No longer caught between the temptations of the dark and the outsider rebuttals of the Light. So yes, casting the Dark out of the world means that the Light, too, must go, and I can see the . . . esthetic sense in which she concluded as a matter of course that they must forget. No one is coming to save us, as Merriman says, and the kinds of power she was writing about – the alien magic of the Light and the complicated ownership man has over the world – could not . . . exist in the same space.

It still deeply offends me on a personal level, on behalf of the Drews. They earned those memories with a lot of courage and striving. Living through it changed them, and to have it all so casually erased is still outrageous to me, a kind of assault. But on the broader thematic level . . . yeah, all right. I get it. I don’t like it. But I get it.
3 likes · likeflag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Silver on the Tree.
sign in »

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

dateDown_arrow    newest »

message 1: by Moira (new) - added it

Moira Russell It makes me think of my favorite monument, which is in fact a “countermonument.” It’s a monument against violence and fascism, a pillar designed, over time, to sink into the ground and disappear. Eventually, the monument space will be empty because, as the monument itself reads, “in the end, it is only we ourselves who can rise up against injustice.”

Wow, that's amazing.


message 2: by skein (new)

skein hey earned those memories with a lot of courage and striving. Living through it changed them, and to have it all so casually erased is still outrageous to me, a kind of assault.
I've never (yet) read the Dark books, but I agree -- it's horrifying to think of the weight of my own life being taken from me, and with it -- my suffering and my power.

That not-monument? Thank you. I'd never seen it before.


back to top