Book Reviews

October 26, 2007 Comments Off on Book Reviews

Now time for that semi-regular feature: half-assed book reviews.

Gathering Blue
Lois Lowry; Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Nicely rendered sequel to The Giver, Lowry’s trilogy centers or three different visions of post-apocalyptic human society. The Giver focuses on Jonas’ village, where equality, convention, and respect for authority are valued above all. We read The Giver in our eighth grade Utopia unit— wherein the class came to the conclusion that Utopia is a naive fantasy. It was a sad day.

The village in Gathering Blue is much different. Kira’s society is much more primitive than Jonas’. While everyone works together for survival, there is no community spirit or goodwill, even within families, and while there is more personal freedom, there’s also much more violence and open hostility. Kira, born with a twisted leg, should have been exposed at birth, according to the community’s traditions. But Kira is gifted with needle and thread, and when her mother dies, she is taken into the government building to serve the Council with other gifted youth (whose parents also **SPOILER** died mysteriously).

I also liked the hints here about previous civilization, both in the the ceremonial song, and the clues in the landscape; the government building. Lowry subtly describes the people’s bewilderment at such lost knowledge, much like people in the Middle Ages must have marveled over aqueducts and Roman ruins.

A quick read, expertly executed. It brought me right back to eighth grade Humanities class.

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The Princess and Curdie
George MacDonald; Penguin Classics
George MacDonald was reportedly the favorite author of a very young JRR Tolkien, so perhaps he can be described as the grandfather of modern fantasy. First published in 1882, The Princess and Curdie is the sequel to The Princess and the Goblin, a true fairy tale, complete with fairy grandmothers, goblins, and a young pure hero, in the form of Curdie, the son of a miner, and a miner himself, who rescues the innocent Princess Irene who’s been kidnapped and held hostage in the middle of a mountain by scheming goblins. The simple moral is to be open to believing without seeing.

In this book, set a year after the previous volume, Curdie has lost some of his purity, and the fairy grandmother, whom he couldn’t see in the first book, sets a shamed Curdie on a quest to save his king and kingdom. The message is more complex this time. While it’s still about faith and trust in something greater than oneself, it’s also about recognizing who is worthy of faith and trust.

Some of the language is archaic and there’s some religion here and there (MacDonald was an Anglican ministerbefore his superiors realized he wasn’t proclaiming their message with proper respect for convention), this is a largely unknown classic that deserves more attention. Of particular note is the goddess-like characterization of the great-great grandmother.

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More to come: At the Sign of the Sugared Plum, Becoming Rosemary, and Fairest! Maybe. I only seem to do these reviews once every eight months, so I won’t promise anything.

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