A few days ago I learned that children’s author Pauline Fisk has died. Pauline first arrived here on Bookwitch about four years ago, saying nice things. And I had to go and point out that her name means fish in Swedish… She took it well.
A year later she offered me her first book, which she was re-issuing, to review, and it was a truly scary, but excellent, read. I am re-posting my review below, hoping some of you will find it tempts you to read it.
And over on An Awfully Big Blog Adventure, her friends have re-posted Pauline’s last blog for them, which when I re-read it, made me believe that perhaps she wasn’t as scarily good at everything, as I’d been thinking. Or, maybe she was. Actually, I think she was. (I know you don’t always click through on links, but please do so this time.)
I can’t recall when I was last so scared when reading a book. It’s all very well with horror stories, which even if really quite scary, tend to be so far removed from reality as to be easier to stop thinking about. But this, this was that kind of treacly, sweet, slow, real nightmare stuff. You know you are in it, but you still can’t work out how to escape. If there is an escape.
Pauline Fisk did well for prizes and good reviews when Midnight Blue was first published twenty years ago, and now she has re-published her debut novel as an ebook. If you like this kind of heart-stopper, then Midnight Blue is the perfect book for you. It is remarkably well written and you quickly get sucked into the strange fantasy/fairy tale style and setting.
It’s all so real! And so sweet and ordinary. Until the menacing treacle gets you. Midnight Blue also seems to be aimed at a younger reader than I had imagined. Bonnie feels pretty young, and so does Arabella whom she meets in this odd world where she suddenly finds herself. The book starts in an ordinary way, with Bonnie having returned to live with her single mother, after years with her grandmother.
And then before the reader quite knows what’s happened, she’s somewhere else. I found it hard to work out where this was, why she was there, and how she could get away again. Because of the perceived age of the reader, I felt sure that a good ending must be possible, although it seemed very unlikely at times. I had no way of working out what kind of happy end, though.
Ultimately the story is about getting to know yourself, what you want and what you can do. But before Bonnie gets that far she’s stuck, living in the sweetest of nightmares.