Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Country Child

London: Penguin, 1971, c1931.
237 p.

I've been reading this book over the past couple of weeks and have found it calming and peaceful reading before bed. It is inspired by author Alison Uttley's childhood on an English farm in the early 1900's. It follows Susan Garland as she intensely experiences her life over a year at Windystone Farm, as the only child there. She has to walk 4 miles to school through a dark wood, which frightens her when the moon isn't out to keep her company. Everything in the farm -- the trees, the kitchen furniture, the ornaments in the spare room -- everything is a special friend to her. She has a strong attachment to the 3 books she owns, which have been read over and over. One of the chapters is about her decision, when she wins a prize at school, to spend it on One Thousand and One Nights. Alas, before she can finish it, her religious parents discover it and throw it into the kitchen stove.

This book is a quiet, nostalgic look at an imaginative child's growing up years, but it is probably not something I'd give to many modern children. Older children, preteens or teens, who like quiet, descriptive books without much dialogue or in your face excitement, would perhaps find it interesting. As for myself, I love it. It is beautifully, hypnotically written and suitably I've just been reading the December chapters, on Christmas. Gorgeous!!

Here is a sample of Susan's Christmas Eve festivities:

Holly decked every picture and ornament. Sprays hung over the bacon and twisted round the hams and herb bunches. The clock carried a crown on his head, and every dish-cover had a little sprig. Susan kept an eye on the lonely forgotten humble things, the jelly moulds and colanders and nutmeg graters, and made them happy with glossy leaves. Everything seemed to speak, to ask for its morsel of greenery, and she tried to leave out nothing... In the middle of the kitchen ceiling there hung the kissing-bunch, the best and brightest pieces of holly made in the shape of a large ball which dangled from the hook. Silver and gilt drops, crimson balls, blue glass trumpets, bright oranges and and red polished apples, peeped and glittered through the glossy leaves. Little flags of all nations, but chiefly Turkish for some unknown reason, stuck out like quills on a hedgehog. The lamp hung near, and every little berry, every leaf, every pretty ball and apple had a tiny yellow flame reflected in the heart.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Melanie, Here's wishing you a Merry Christmas and a great 2009 reading year ahead.


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