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Recent reading roundup

Farah Mendlesohn - Diana Wynne Jones: Children's Literature and the Fantastic Tradition

I read this book in January and did mention it at the time, but left it beside my desk until I could figure out how to write it up properly. I still can't write it up properly, but at least I know why. I moderated a panel at Eastercon called Entry Level Criticism, which was most educational for me (thank you Farah and others). I hope it's a fair summary to say that I understood that you start to become a critic when you review in context. I've been reviewing books for a long time, and by that criteria have even (I discovered) started to become a critic. But I have no context to come to this book from because my critical reading is isolated and occasional. So I just have to settle for an entry-level review, and say in a very elementary fashion that I enjoyed reading it, and it gave me some insight into Diana's work, and into fantasy more generally, that I have found of value.

Jo Walton - Farthing, Ha'penny and Half-a-Crown
Kelly Link - Magic for Beginners
Nancy Farmer - The Ear, the Eye and the Arm
Jo Walton - Lifelode

Jo Walton writes apparently simple stories with utmost simplicity. One is never in doubt as a reader as to exactly what has happened, for she makes the story plain. But when you go away and think about them afterwards then they are most unsettling. She has one of the most sideways minds of any writer I know. Put her on your shelf alongside Diana Wynne Jones.

Kelly Link came new to me with this book. She does not write simple stories. She does not make the story plain. She also has a sideways mind. Some of these stories are going to stay with me for a long, long time.

Nancy Farmer's The Ear, the Eye and the Arm is a young adult novel set in a future Harare, Zimbabwe. Three children are kidnapped, and after many adventures return home. It occurs to me in writing this that there are quest and clownish elements to this book reminiscent of Diana Wynne Jones' work. I enjoyed it.

(Perhaps I will now go and read some books by men for a change.)


Caroline M

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October 2017