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03 February 2013

'The Weirdstone of Brisingamen' by Alan Garner

This is an excellent book that has survived 50 years without apologies.  And I am grateful, because I searched for it for almost 30.  Many years ago I moved to a new city and a new school.  Our English teacher, Mr. Clark, read a book to our class.  The story included magic, adventures and children... as I mentioned, it lingered in my memories for nearly three decades.  Mr.Clark, I hope, is retired and doing well.  His red brown mustache (it was the 80's) and southern English accent made the episode even more memorable.  You have to understand that I had learnt English in Texas two years previous and thought I must have forgotten it over the Summer because I could not understand Mr.Thompson (Australian) or Mr. Clark (English).   Anyway, it was like being read to by a posh Tom Selleck.  But back to the book...

I searched for this book for years.  I searched for the chills it gave me and the excitement.  I searched in other books for that sense of adventure.  I read fantasy and SF and anything I thought might make me feel like this book did.  I must say that it turned me from a child that liked reading into a child that loved reading.  Thank you, Mr. Clark for your excellent choice.

Many years later came the World Wide Web.  The only words I could remember from the book were "fire frost", the name of a magical stone.  The long and strange book title, I had forgotten.  And then... a hit.  OMG! it went directly to my wish list.  As is often the case when I search on the web, more information turns up then I expected. Alan Garner wrote two books with this cast in this world, the second is 'The Moon of Gomrath'.  The two books were published just a few years apart about half a century ago.  But and this is a big but, he finally wrote a third book to finish a trilogy.  It is titled 'Boneland' it was published last year and I am excited.  Hence the reason I had so many hits online for firefrost.  When I eventually held 'The Weirdstone of Brisingamen' I hesitated.  What if I am disappointed?  What if my memories tricked me?  But, I plunged in and read my book.

Alan Garner is a master.  As an adult reader, I see how well he understands his geography, his lore, and the power as well as helplessness of children.  I once again had chills several times.  The children are often in danger and confused.  Therefore, the reader is often in danger and confused.  The tragedy and victory of the conclusion leaves questions unanswered.  I feel it is a justified mystery, after all, I do not explain everything to my children.  Sometimes, regrettably, I must answer "when you are older...".  Which leads me to realize that that is the fundamental difference between The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.  There are many things in this world that are magical by simply being mysterious.  Human emotions and grown up choices also fall into this category.  Alan Garner keeps me helpless and somehow sad even in victory by being true to how children experience the world.

A wonderful book, not as lauded as it should be.  The second book is often out of stock but I will persevere and then enjoy 'Boneland'.

Alan Garner 
ISBN: 9780007355211 

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