liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
[personal profile] liv
Recently read:
  • Finished the draft of my friend's unpublished novel that I've been reading for some weeks now.

  • In a blue velvet dress by Catherine Sefton. [livejournal.com profile] ghoti lent it to me as it was a book she loved as a kid, and it's really very adorable. It's a ghost story about a bookworm who is sent to stay with people who don't have any books while her parents are off on a semi-dangerous holiday. I know I read a lot of books like that when I was in the target age bracket, definitely children's chapter books rather than YA. And this is just a really good example.

    The child's point of view is spot on; there are things that (at least an adult) reader can spot that are not very obvious to Jane, but the book is never patronizing either to its protag or to the reader. And she does a bit of growing and learning, appreciating village life as well as the suburban life she's used to, starting to make friends with people she'd initially judged because they're not bookish like her. But she's never implicitly criticized for being a bookworm, it's not that playing outdoors with other kids is morally superior to reading everything you can get your hands on, it's that you can have both. The book shows that Jane has a certain amount of financial and class privilege compared to the other characters, but it never lectures the reader or gets sentimental about that, and again, Jane isn't condemned for not fully understanding it. I generally expect writers to get clever children wrong, but Jane is a pretty good example of someone who is academically clever but has a limited understanding of how the world actually works.

    All the minor characters are very vivid, and I particularly enjoyed the way that the people whom Jane finds annoying get just enough snippets of viewpoint to make it clear that they have interiority and are real people who matter. I loved the sometimes strained friendship between the involuntarily childless woman who rather ineptly takes care of Jane, and the mother struggling with more children than she can really cope with financially or time-wise. The book is very clearly located in time and place; only precisely in the 70s would children have exactly that level of freedom, and there's a weird thing where it's desperately coy about corporal punishment, a child could easily miss the references; if the book had been any older the naughty boy would just have got a beating quite openly as a normal part of life, and if any newer that would just never have happened unless it was a Problem Book about the evils of child abuse.

    I liked the ghost story part too, it's tense and exciting but never truly scary. I would be happy for a young child who was an advanced reader to get hold of this, unless they were very sensitive. Even to an adult the plot is non-obvious, it's well within its genre but it's original as well.


Currently reading:
  • The girl with all the gifts by MR Carey. I really don't like zombie books but my goodness this one is totally worth making an exception for. It is on the edge of too gory for me but the worldbuilding and the characterization make it really worth it. And it's an exciting story and a third of the way through I really have no idea where Carey's going with the plot, but I really really want to find out. It's the kind of book that tempts me to skive off what I'm supposed to be doing and read just one more chapter. And in an odd similarity with In a blue velvet dress Melanie is a pretty good genius child viewpoint character.


Up next: Not sure at all. I'm still supposed to pick something solely for the cover, but I keep not having time to do that.
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Soundbite

Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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