A young man and his dog against the world

God’s Own Country by Ross Raisin

Sam Marsdyke is nineteen, and due to something that happened in his past, is stuck working on his family’s sheep farm on the North York Moors instead of getting a life.  Virtually ignored by his parents, he wanders the moors with his dog looking at the world from up there with a mixture of amusement, detachment and resentment.

One day life starts to get more interesting for him.  A family of ‘towns’ moves into the farm next door; moved out from the city to get a better life. He sees them arrive, and watches the teenaged daughter laughing with the removals men…

She’d know about me before too long. Not me, course, but my history, painted up in all the muckiest colours by some tosspot, gagging to set her against me. A piece of gossip travels fast through a valley. The hills keep it in. It goes from jaw to jaw all the way along till it’s common news, true or not. Specially when the valley’s full of tosspots, such as this one.

It’s obvious right from the beginning that Sam’s resentments run far deeper than just the incomers, he has little time for anyone except his dog.  It’s also obvious that he’s going to fall for the girl, and she too, appears to be interested in this lanky young man – or is she just using him?  ‘Ere long, they get into some scrapes together, and you know it will all go very, very wrong…

The entire novel is narrated entirely by Sam, and scattered finely with lovely Yorkshire dialect words such as fettling, trunklements and blatherskite – all good woody words, (to quote Monty Python).  Unusually for me I didn’t find that the dialect got in the way, Raisin has a light hand with it and gives Sam a distinct voice.   Underneath it all Sam is shy; his schoolmates all called him ‘Lankenstein’; he tends to blurt and lash out, making decisions that he played out totally differently in the fantasies in his head, making him a rather unreliable narrator.  You’re never quite sure what he’s going to do next, as his thoughts and the reality of his actions are often very different.  It was this duality to Sam that absolutely gripped me from the start.

I really enjoyed the scenery too tramping over the moors with Sam, who is quite the nature boy. There is a fair bit of humour in the novel, but as you might expect, it gets darker as it goes.  I found this novel ‘reet gradely’ (well my maternal grandmother was Yorkshire-born), and thoroughly recommend it. (9/10)

I had the pleasure of meeting the author last week at the Penguin blogger’s event.  We talked a little about the use of dialect, and I said I thought he had a light touch with it. He told me that this hadn’t gone down so well in America, (where the book is published as Out Backwards), which is a shame.

His next book Waterline is set in the shipyards of the Clyde in Glasgow, and will also be full of rich regional language. He’s going to have some lessons in Glaswegian for readings when it comes out!

See what others think – read John Self of Asylum’s thoughts from 2009 here and Dovegreyreader’s review from 2008 here.

* * * * *

I bought this book.  To buy from Amazon.co.uk, click below:
God’s Own Country – paperback
Waterline – will be published in July.

A bit of Brideshead with lots of sex and astral projection …

Farundell by L R Fredericks

I was immediately drawn to the cover of this book, and indeed the blurb promises much too…

There’s an enigmatic book, an erotic obsession, magic both black and white, a ghost who’s not a ghost, a murder that’s not a murder, a treasure that’s not a treasure.

Who wouldn’t be tempted by that.  The blurb also mentions Brideshead Revisited, and there are superficial similarities – the book is set in an ancestral pile and features an eccentric family into which an outsider is invited, but that’s where the parallels end really.  The mystery of it made me hope for something akin to Lindsay Clarke’s wonderful novel The Chymical Wedding which delves deep into alchemy and the hermetic tradition,  a book I must re-read soon – but it wasn’t as profound as that novel.  It was, however, an enjoyable debut, and I gather it is to be the first in a series featuring the characters within.

Let me tell you a little about the story… Set in 1924, Paul Asher is at a loss what to do after his wartime experiences, he is still somewhat shell-shocked and estranged from his father.  He accepts an invitation to Farundell from a friend to help the renowned Amazon explorer Percy Damory, now old and blind, to write his memoirs.  There he meets the eccentric Damory family – a rather Bohemian clan.  Of the Damory children, teenager Alice is the most interesting at the start. She is always curious and wants to be grown up.

Paul starts off well at the house – he feels at home.  Then one day he sees the family ghost and this will be the start of surreal experiences to come.  It turns out that several of the family regularly see Francis the ancestral ghost and have out of body experiences (they call it their ‘moon-bodies’) communing with him.  Then Percy’s grand-daughter Sylvie arrives down from London and Paul instantly and totally falls in passionate love.  Sylvie, gratifyingly for Paul, consents to fall totally in love lust. They can’t keep their relationship secret, indeed Sylvie’s parents and grandfather thoroughly approve, and there’s soon a lot of sex going on.  At the same time, Paul, having had his eyes opened to the ghost, begins to use his moon-body too.

Interspersed with this are Percy’s memories of his explorations and encounters in the jungle with fearful tribes and potent drugs and associated out of body experiences; the precocious Alice seeking answers; and a mysterious book that Paul becomes obsessed by – it is reputed to hold the secrets of the Farundell treasure that great-great-grandfather Francis had brought back to the estate. The ghost Francis isn’t telling though, he continues to play mind-games with them; all except Aunt Theo who has chosen not to use her moon-body – hinting of the dangers to come.

There’s a lot in this book, although at times it can be quite rambling and at the start all the family characters can be rather confusing.  There are a lot of different sub-plots going on which I haven’t mentioned above.  I did need respite from Paul and Sylvie’s rampant rutting though, so they were necessary after all!

I did like the setting, the grand country house is very alluring with its secret passageways and wonderful views.  The grounds complete with huge lake, island, chapel and Greco/Egyptian temples, and not forgetting its own model village, feels like a theme park you need never leave.  The period is also potent; people are just starting to find themselves again after the Great War, and letting go one by one with abandon.

I couldn’t decide whether this book was wanting to be a family drama or a surreal fantasy.  I though it ended up trying to be both and not quite succeeding. There was much to like and I enjoyed it, but was left slightly disappointed. I would however, probably read more by this debut author. (6.5/10)

See what Simon at Savidge Reads thought here.  I chose this book from a list sent by Amazon Vine to review.

* * * * *

To buy from Amazon.co.uk, click below:
Farundell by L R Fredericks
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
The Chymical Wedding by Lindsay Clarke

A thoroughly modern road trip & coming of age story

The Ice Age by Kirsten Reed

Shame about the cover, my proof copy had a colourful wraparound parchment over the plain cover with a collage of American bald eagles, stalactites and vampire’s fangs amongst the images portrayed.  Underneath the bland exterior of the published book is a rather good debut.

The story is narrated by a seventeen year old girl; we never learn her name, or how she got where she is, her story starts from the day she meets Gunther and takes a lift from him.

Gunther is enigmatic, he doesn’t appear to do anything except drive around mid-America, an ageing hippy, or maybe more of a rocker type, but with a girlfriend in every state, and friends all over too.  He always has money and weed – we don’t know how he gets it – maybe he’s a dealer?.  He obviously has charisma – the girl is attracted from the off even though he’s old enough to be her father.  She fantasises that he’s a vampire, submitting to his icy stare and pointed bite.  Indeed like vampire and it’s food-provider, the pair seem to have developed a similar symbiotic relationship, apparent right from the start of the book…

He’s wondering where to drop me. And he can’t find a place. The world is too ugly, too plain. Every town is an empty blank. And the cities, well, they’re full. As long as Gunther’s acting like some weird detached dad, I’m his little girl. He says it’s a sad state of affairs when the apparent predator is the protector. I don’t understand what he gets all heavy about. We like it here with each other. I don’t want the world to close in, but if they do, surely they’ll see the innocence. Who said ‘All’s fair in love and war’? I hope that applies here. I don’t want him to give me up.

At times the girl seems old way beyond her years, so much so she tempts Gunther into bed.  Their relationship completely changes, but old girlfriends are calling. Gunther doesn’t want to hurt her, he didn’t really want to change their relationship from a paternal one to that of lovers, he leaves her behind at a friend’s house.  She wants to get back at him, but it goes badly wrong, and she has to become a young girl again.  Back on the road she still dreams of reaching New York though …

The girl has to grow up fast as life overtakes fantasy. Gunther as an older man could have been rather creepy, instead he was more of a catalyst. He means well for her, but he changes her life without changing himself – his influence being both benign and negligent. He’ll eventually drive off on the road again. She’ll no doubt be added to the list of his girlfriends in time.  This was an engaging debut with strong characters. (7.5/10)

* * * * *

I got this book as loot from my Mostly Bookbrains quiznight.  To buy from Amazon.co.uk, click below:
The Ice Age by Kirsten Reed

An evening with Penguin

Living in a town near Oxford, it takes a lot to tempt me into London midweek during term-time – but when an invitation came to attend Penguin’s General Bloggers Evening in the swanky surroundings of a private room in a dining club in Soho, with a fantastic line-up of no less than seven authors attending, plus the lure of goody bags – I quickly made arrangements for a friend to pick up my daughter from school and feed her until hubby got back from work, and yesterday afternoon, off I went to the Big Smoke for my first publisher’s event.

Along with my book-acquiring habit, I’m also chronically early for everything – I tend to get stressed if I’m running late.  The evening was meant to start at 6.30, but I was getting footsore with wandering around and went up about ten minutes early, but the Penguin crew didn’t mind, so phew!  Around ten minutes later, a horde of other bloggers arrived including Jackie from FarmLaneBooks, Sakura from Chasing Bawa, Simon from Stuck in a Book, Claire from Paperback Reader, Hayley from Desperate Reader, and David from Follow the Thread, all of whom I’d met before. It was also lovely to meet Jess from Park Benches and Bookends, (all links on the Blogroll to your right).

Each of the authors read or talked about their latest books for a short while, then afterwards there was loads of time to chat with them and the Penguin crew.  The authors were:

  • Joe Dunthorne – author of Submarine and the upcoming Wild Abandon.  Joe read a hilarious scene from his yet to be published novel set in a commune, in which a meditating eleven year old boy talks to his sixteen year old self to find out what happens in the future.  Very funny indeed.  Can’t wait, and I already had Submarine in the TBR – in the news as Richard Ayodade’s film based on the novel has just come out and got a great reception.
  • Luke Williams – a debut author of the upcoming The Echo Chamber.
  • Jean Kwok – author of Girl in Translation, in which a family from Hong Kong comes to New York and ends up living in a roach-infested apartment in Brooklyn, working in sweat shops.  Although a work of fiction, there were definite parallels between Jean’s life (she comes from Hong Kong and moved to Brooklyn when she was five and had a hard life for some years.)  She was fun to talk to and loves bloggers.
  • Ross Raisin – author of God’s Own Country and the upcoming Waterline.  I read Ross’s first novel recently (review coming up soon), but I loved it. Set in the North York Moors, it is a tale of a young farm lad who runs off with the new nextdoor neighbour’s underage daughter.  His new book is ‘much sadder’ he said, all about the decline of shipbuilding on the Clyde and the effect on families.  I chatted to Ross for ages afterwards, and telling him how much I’d liked God’s Own Country, he admitted it was funny to hear people talking about the book still, as he’d handed it in two years ago and started work on the next soon after.  He was also really interested in blogging and asked us lots of questions about why and how we got started.
  • Rebecca Hunt – author of Mr Chartwell.  I’ve yet to read this book, but after last night it’s gone right up the TBR pile.  Set during Winston Churchill’s latter years in which his ‘Black Dog’ of depression becomes reality – a talking big black dog!  Rebecca read a passage in which the dog was trying to wheedle his way onto the bed of a local widow he lodged with, and naturally she was more than a little creeped out by the prospect. She got the voice of the Dog so well! I’m very much looking forward to reading this book.
  • Helen Gordon – author of the upcoming Landfall.  Another debut novelist, Helen’s book is set in the home counties and features an art critic and a precocious young teenager.  I couldn’t help thinking that Helen looks slightly like a younger Elizabeth Moss (Peggy in Mad Men).  I grabbed a proof copy of this one to read.
  • Hisham Matar – author of Anatomy of  a Disappearance, and the Booker nominated In the Country of Men.  I’m currently reading In the Country of Men and am enjoying the exquisite writing very much.  Hisham read from his latest book (see a wonderful review by Dovegreyreader here), and his mellifluous Mediterranean tones really brought to life the first chapter in which a man remembers his father from the smell of his watch-strap – lovely.  Earlier I talked briefly to Hisham and when I said I worked in a school, he told me a little of his work with the charity First Story in which authors go into school to do creative writing projects with the children.

Thank you to Penguin, and especially the authors who made time to come and talk to a group of bloggers.
It made my day.

* * * * *

To buy any of those available books from Amazon.co.uk, click below:
In the Country of Men, Anatomy of a Disappearance by Hisham Matar
God’s Own Country, Waterline by Ross Raisin
Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok
Submarine by Joe Dunthorne
Mr Chartwell by Rebecca Hunt

The Grand Cull Commences!

Having written an impassioned piece a couple of weeks ago about my dilemma on which books to keep once I’ve read them, I’m starting a grand stock take of all my books, and in particular my humungous TBR (to be read) piles.  Before any book goes back on the shelves, I will decide whether to keep or cull.

For old classics that I’ve not read yet it’s straight-forward – unless they’re collectable or have particularly good supporting material, as long as there’s a cheap e-book version, I don’t need to keep a copy.  I’ve sent two bags full mostly of these books to the charity shop already.  Modern classics are more difficult though, I’ve inherited a pile of paperback novels from my late Mum by authors such as John Steinbeck – but as the Kindle versions are expensive I’m loath to let them go. However, I may not get around to reading some of them for years.  A quandary beckons …

Then what to do about books like these two?

The Iron King is about Philip IV of France, set in the 14th C, by Maurice Druon and translated from the French my Humphrey Hare (1956), billed as a ‘blood-curdling tale of intrigue, murder, corruption and sexual passion’.

Thomas by US author Shelley Mydans was published in 1965 and is a novelisation of the relationship between Henry II and Thomas A’Becket.

Both are manky old paperbacks, but could be good fun reads – both about periods of history I’m very dodgy on (I know they are fiction, but they are based on fact so I would learn something!).  Also being totally O/P I’d never find them again – is that enough?  Should I …

Keep or Cull?

Another area where I’ve been more successful is in culling doubles (or sometimes trebles).  Over the years I’ve treated myself to some collectable or luxury hardbacks – Folio Society editions for the most part.  As they’re almost too nice to actually read (I know!) I had kept my paperbacks too, but they are going – so out go paperbacks of Suetonius, I Claudius, The Once & Future King, F.Scott Fitzgeralds, amongst others.

Another nice thing to emerge from sorting out my books is the possibility of having a bookcase of themed reading – books on Arthurian and related myths and legends, and also fairy and folk tales for instance, will fill shelves on their own and mix fiction and non-fiction happily.  I’m normally a strict Fiction A-Z by author, Biography A-Z by subject, and Non-Fiction A-Z by author kind of indexer!

I have a long way to go, but today I’ve filled another bag for the charity shop and listed some others on Amazon to sell, so I am making some progress towards bringing my home TBR library down to more manageable proportions.

How do you decide what to cull from your TBR?


Lemony Snicket for Grown-ups

Adverbs by Daniel Handler

This author is best known as the writer of the fun Lemony Snicket series of novels for children.  I’ve read the first Lemony Snicket novel, and heard the audiobook narrated by Tim Curry, (I just love his voice!) and one day intend to read the rest of the series.  The film, which combines the first three novels is immensely stylish and is a favourite at Gaskell Towers too.  In these books, Handler has a fabulous and quirky narrative style, telling the story of the three Baudelaire orphans who have a series of unfortunate events happen to them.

So after that preamble, you may be interested to hear that Handler has written some adult novels under his own name.  You would also expect some off-beat humour and full-on quirkiness and Adverbs doesn’t disappoint.

The novel is really a series of short stories, mostly linked, sharing characters and a timeline.  Each chapter is titled with an adverb, which occurs physically in the text or in character in that story, including: obviously, particularly, briefly, naturally and symbolically to name a few.  Do you know the parlour game Adverbs?  You have to act in the style of a particular adverb for the others to work out – well this book is a bit like that!

One of my favourite characters, Helena first crops up in the story Particularly in which she ends up working for her husband’s ex, teaching in a school …

She and her husband needed to buy things pretty much on a regular basis. This teaching job did not pay a lot of money, because, let’s face it, nobody gives a flying fuck about education, but it was a temporary position. Helena had been told it would last until the money ran out. From Helena’s experience, she would say the money was going to run out in about nine days.
‘It’s a temporary position, like I told you,’ said Andrea,  who had said no such thing. ‘Pretty much what happens is, you facilitate the creative expression part. You’re a creative expression facilitator. Get it?’
Andrea was an ex-girlfriend of Helena’s husband, so she said ‘Get it?’ like one might say, ‘The same man has seen us both naked, and prefers you, bitch!’
‘Of course I get it,’ Helena said, but she sighed.Things like this had not happened to her in England. She could not explain the difference, perhaps it was because there wasn’t one. Certainly England had castles, but Helena had not lived in them, although memories of her British life had become more and more glamorous the longer she hung out at hideous places like this.

There’s a rich cast of characters who fall in and out of love, requited and unrequited, from a chivalric teenage crush to being immediately smitten with love at first sight. There are all kinds of  love too, from full-on romantic to platonic, and ghostly too.

Despite being called Adverbs, Handler doesn’t use many of them – I gather that using too many adverbs is considered bad form for proper authors – Elmore Leonard says, ‘Using adverbs is a mortal sin’ in his slim tome 10 Rules of Writing.

Adverbs is also a strange book that happens to be full of magpies literally – it is obsessed with these colourful birds and their kleptomaniac character they crop up throughout as a kind of birdy glue – and dangle sentences at you like wonderful shiny jewels:

Love can smack you like a seagull, and pour all over your feet like junk mail.

How fabulous is that!  Like all proper good metafiction, Handler partially narrates the story, and crops up as himself too. His narration is similarly knowing as that of his alter-ego Lemony Snicket, intimating that he knows what will really happen and he’s not letting on.  As he is so much an integral part of the novel perhaps, the female characters tend to dominate the rest, but they’re all interesting so that’s not a bad thing.

It is also full of advice on life in general:

You have to be careful when you say what you like two weeks before your birthday. You say birds you’ll get birds. You say the new album by the Prowlers and you better not buy it yourself because it’ll be waiting for you in the bag from Zodiac records…

There was much I really liked about this book.  At the risk of sounding like Forrest Gump, it was a little like a box of chocolates – I liked some stories and characters far more than others.  However, the quirk factor was right for me, and the literary tricksiness was right up my street, so I will look out for more by this interesting chap.  (8/10)

* * * * *

I bought this book.  To buy from Amazon.co.uk, click below:
The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events No.1)
The Bad Beginning (Series of Unfortunate Events) Audiobook read by Tim Curry
Lemony Snicket’s: A Series Of Unfortunate Events[DVD] [2004]
10 Rules of Writing by Elmore Leonard

A man, his lover, & his dog

Timoleon Vieta Come Home by Dan Rhodes

This is the story of a mongrel dog with the ‘saddest eyes in the world’.   One day a stray dog turns up at retired British composer Cockcroft’s Italian villa.  The dog has beautiful eyes and Cockcroft is very happy to gain a new companion, for he has been lonely since his last lover left.  Soon man and dog become inseparable.

Cockcroft hates being alone, and has over the years since his enforced retirement from the UK in disgrace, somehow managed to attract a stream of willing house-guests by offering room and board in return for a weekly blow job!  One day, a visitor arrives unexpectedly – a handsome Bosnian, whom it turns out Cockcroft invited him to visit when he was last in Florence.  Timoleon Vieta growls at him taking a mutual instant dislike, but Cockcroft welcomes him even though he can’t remember who he is. The Bosnian, who is keen to lie low for a bit, insinuates himself into Cockcroft’s life.  He does odd jobs, and performs his weekly service, but he wishes all the time that he could get rid of the dog.  His wish comes true on a trip to Rome,  when he forces Cockcroft to abandon Timoleon Vieta there.

The second part of the book is then the story of all the people whom Timoleon Vieta comes into contact with as he tries to get home to Tuscany and his beloved master.  All these people are falling in and out of love, and Timoleon Vieta passes through their lives briefly, but their love is no match for his master’s.

This novel was Dan Rhodes’ first, and having read and loved one of his later ones, Gold, which was like a twisted version of Last of the Summer Wine, I was hoping to really enjoy this book.  Timoleon Vieta come home is much more savage in its humour and darker throughout than the later novel.  With some graphic descriptions you need to be rather broad-minded too.  I didn’t engage with the stories within the story of the second half much though – they were full of emotion and exquisitely crafted but some were quite extended, and I was itching to find out what was happening with Cockcroft and the Bosnian.

Rhodes has created some memorable main characters:  Cockcroft is a silly old fool, and the Bosnian, although not nice, turns out to be quite complex – but what of the dog?  Sorry, I can’t tell you – you’ll have to read it yourself.  (7.5/10)

For another take on this book, read Simon Savidge’s review here.  I did a bookswap for this book.

* * * * *

To buy from Amazon.co.uk, click below:
Timoleon Vieta Come Home, Gold both by Dan Rhodes.

Nothing is ever totally black and white

Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

I finished reading this novel just before I went to see Jasper Fforde a few weeks ago. I was planning to write my thoughts about this brilliant book shortly thereafter, but I’ve been struck with a severe case of the ‘Jasper Fforde role-playing game’… This, he said, was how everyone gets stuck trying to describe his books.

So what is Shades of Grey about? It’s a dystopian view of a world far in the future where technology is regressing. Society has developed a strict class structure based upon colour and your status is determined by the colours you perceive. See, it’s not straight-forward to explain, is it? It is though – full of original characters that you’ll love and hate; it has Fforde’s zany humour and oodles of quirkiness running all through it. It also has romance, coming of age and fish out of water themes, and is part one of a trilogy (part two in 2013). What more could you want?…

… Underlying this class satire and all the small town politics is a level of seriousness unseen in previous Fforde books. It was primarily this vein of gravitas that made me love it more than any previous Fforde read.  It is also a rather complex world, and it took a little time to get into, but I couldn’t put it down once I started to learn a bit about this bizarre system.

I’m going to give up trying to talk about it any more. Instead I’m going to say ‘Don’t ask, just read it!’  And one of you can get a free copy to do just that!

I have a signed copy of the new paperback edition to give away.  I’ll send world-wide, (surface to far off places).  All you have to do is mention your favourite dystopia – in print, on film or TV in the comments.

I’ll make the draw next Friday.  Meanwhile you might like to read Chasing Bawa‘s review – Sakura managed to describe the book far better than me.

Shades of Grey is a startlingly original dystopia that I loved.  (10/10)

* * * * *

To buy from Amazon.co.uk, click below:
Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

We’re off to see the Wizard …

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank L Baum

The Wizard of Oz is one of our favourite family films at Gaskell Towers, and my daughter and I are really looking forward to going to see the new production at the Palladium during the Easter hols.

It struck me though that I’d never actually read the original book, and the OUP very kindly sent me a copy of the Oxford World Classics edition – which has a lot of extra material for grown-ups about the history of Baum and his Oz stories, plus some of the original illustrations.  I was amazed to find out that the story was originally published in 1900, and it had had stage, film and musical versions just a few years later. Of course, it was the advent of Technicolor that made possible the different film musical we all know and love much later in 1939.   In the notes, I also found that Baum got the name for the world of Oz from his filing cabinet O-Z.

For the rest of this post, I am assuming you’ve seen the film and know the basic story, so for no spoilers stop reading now.

The story itself is both the same and very different to the film – notably, Dorothy’s slippers are silver not ruby (changed to take advantage of Techicolor, red shoes being such objects of desire!).   The obvious initial difference though is that there is no character-building extended introduction with Dorothy running away from Miss Gulch, finding Professor Marvel; no time to wistfully sit and hope for better times around the corner.  We are introduced to the gray prairies of Kansas …

When Dorothy stood in the doorway and looked around, she could see nothing but the great gray prairie on every side. Not a tree nor a house broke the broad sweep of flat country that reached the edge of the sky in all directions. The sun had baked the plowed land into a gray mass, with little cracks running through it. Even the grass was not green, for the sun had burned the tops of the long blades until they were the same gray color to be seen everywhere. Once the house had been painted, but the sun blistered the paint and the rains washed it away, and now the house was as dull and gray as everything else.

When Aunt Em had come to live there she was a young, pretty wife. The sun and wind had changed her, too.  They had taken the sparkle from her eyes and left them a sober gray; they had taken the red from her cheeks and lips, and they were gray also. She was thin and gaunt, and never smiled, now.

… very depressing indeed. Then it’s straight into the cyclone, and off to Oz.  Baum’s original Oz is a darker place – still full of colour, but much more menacing.  The party seeking the Emerald city have to fight off many marauders and have much cause to be thankful for the Tin Woodsman’s sharp axe and the Lion’s claws.  After the balloon goes up, they go on another supplementary quest to find Glinda, the Witch of the South so Dorothy can get home, and we meet the denizens of the Dainty China Country, the Hammer-heads and the Quadlings before Dorothy learns she had the means of her return on her feet all the time.  Interestingly she says ‘Take me home to Aunt Em‘ rather than ‘There’s no place like home‘ while clicking her heels together, and Aunt Em is the first person she sees in the short final chapter.

Theories about the book being an economic and political allegory abound.  I don’t know anything about turn of the century American politics, so can’t comment on that.  However it’s clear that Baum appreciated the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen, wanting to write a less horrific modern fairy-tale that combined the fantastic with home comforts.  Apparently Dorothy is influenced by Carroll’s Alice, but whereas I love Alice’s questionning nature, I do find Dorothy rather too ready to accept her role as a future wife and housekeeper – the home comforts loving side of her nature is too submissive for me. I mean, she would never have managed to kill the Wicked Witch of the West if she’d not had a bucket of water ready for washing the floor!

This was an interesting book to read.  It would be nice if today’s children would continue to read it.  (7/10)

* * * * *

I requested this book from the publisher. Thank you to Oxford World Classics.

To buy from Amazon.co.uk, click below:
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Oxford World’s Classics)
The Wizard Of Oz (includes Sing-Along Version) [DVD] [1939]