Four older books that I’ve read for the first time and had mixed reactions to.
Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary Schmidt: I loved a lot of this–the descriptions of the Maine coastline are so perfect, and the feeling of lived-in-ness in Turner’s life. His coming of age is thoughtful and lovely. And yet, I expected, from the title and the beginning of the book, that Lizzie Bright was a major character and I could not help noticing and being troubled by the way her voice disappears from the narrative except as an inspiration for Turner. This is not a small thing, and I can see a certain reading in which that’s the point and we’re supposed to be troubled by it. I don’t quite buy that reading–somehow the text doesn’t seem aware enough of what it’s doing for that to be the case. I don’t know, except that I loved the beginning so much and felt so disappointed by the end.
Hide and Seek by Ida Vos: Vos’s fictionalized memoir of her experiences in Holland during World War II. A great contribution to the picture of the Jewish experience in that time and place, but the prose–at least in translation–is so spare as to be uninteresting. I’m very glad to have read it, but not particularly driven to read it again.
Kingdom Under the Sea by Joan Aiken, illustrated by Jan Pienkowski: A collection of Eastern European folktales, with illustrations by the always wonderful Pienkowski. I liked them, and yet the power of the illustrations was diminished by the small size of the book, and also nothing can ever replace the series of Russian folktales that I grew up on. These retellings somehow lacked some of the power of Aiken’s best works; they were fine, but so straightforward that they become almost unmemorable. Anyway, glad I tried them, but nothing I’m raving about.
Sun Horse, Moon Horse by Rosemary Sutcliff: Sutcliff’s prose is amazing as always–the descriptions of the land, of the seasons, of the drawings are simply gorgeous. This is a slight little book, and it shares many of the same themes as Mark of the Horse Lord, and yet it’s simply not as impressive as Mark, perhaps because we don’t have as long to get to know the characters, perhaps because Lubrin Dhu isn’t Phaedrus.