Return to Wonderland

Return to Wonderland

Many writers have a relationship with Alice. A whole bunch of them have now written their own new stories about Wonderland and the wondrous creatures you find there. It’s Alice Day on the 4th of July, or so I’ve been told, and here’s a whole new story collection featuring your favourite characters.

In fact, I was struck by how nicely these authors played; they all seemed to have an affinity with a different character from the other authors, which seems to mean there was no fighting. They simply sat down and mused in an interesting way about the Cheshire Cat, or the Knave of Hearts, or any of the others.

To tell the truth, I only ever read the original Alice once, and don’t have a deep and meaningful relationship with any of them. I like tea parties, but prefer them to be normal. I like my head attached. And so on.

Some of these stories were great, lots of fun and interesting new takes on the old tales. I didn’t like all of them the same, but that’s understandable as the eleven authors don’t write the same way, and maybe for me some of Wonderland’s characters are more my cup of tea than others.

‘One morning, Pig woke to discover he had been turned into a real boy.’

How can you go wrong with a start like that?

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The Defence

This is one I wrote earlier. Fingers crossed I am doing what I am about to claim I am doing.

This is the day Daughter has her PhD defence, and I am in Switzerland for the express purpose of not understanding a thing she says, before serving the red wine.

It’s taken four years and several exoplanet discoveries. She has written lots of words about it, mostly in English, but as the university requires some kind of introduction in French – a language Daughter didn’t speak, at all – there is a bit of planetary stuff in French.

And in Swedish, proofread by me. It’s not easy editing words about that which you really know very little. It’s got pretty pictures, the colours of which I was allowed to have an opinion on. And I might get a mention in the acknowledgements, but you sort of expect that for having views on colours.

So, that’s me. Us, really. In the middle of the woods near the French border. I did a practice run last year.

Skål!

Some comprehension deficiency

Just a short, flippant post for you today.

I sometimes write down quotes and thoughts, intending to use them for something. Occasionally I forget what I had in mind. This was one such time. But it fits in well with how my brain is working – i.e. not really working – right now.

I am ‘experiencing comprehension deficiency.’ That sounds so much better than ‘I am stupid.’

Thank goodness for the internet and its search functions. Sitting there as I was, with my quote and not a clue, I discovered it came from Doctor Who. I know this because someone blogged about it, here.

But, yeah, my deficiency has more to do with being surrounded by intelligent and clever people. I am intelligent too, of course, but not quite like this. I’ll never help send anyone to the moon, or anything like that.

Slick

I loved this book by M M Vaughan, and couldn’t wait to finish it to find out how and what. However, I was also very confused, because it reads like an American children’s middle grade book.

It had first been published in the US, under a different title, and I assumed the reference to flats, mum and London was an attempt to make it more UK friendly (as though British readers couldn’t cope with Americanisms). But it seems M M lives in Britain. So I’m still puzzled. On the other hand, I am a stupid adult and presumably a child reader would simply get on with enjoying this very exciting story.

M M Vaughan, Slick

So. Eric is new at school. He is also a robot, except he has no idea. (If he wasn’t a robot I’d put him on the autistic spectrum.) So he’s clever, in some ways, and clueless in other ways. He wants to be friends with the popular boys and he wears designer clothes, which is really important to him.

But against his will, almost, he becomes friends with unpopular Danny. Really good friends. They share the same hobbies and hang out all the time.

But. You know this can’t end well. Can it? Eric’s parents are far weirder than he is. (They are also robots, if you hadn’t worked this out.) Danny is puzzled, and starts investigating, and he…

You want it to be realistic. Well, as realistic as any book about robot boys can be. But it’s also a story for younger readers and you need for it to end a little bit well.

Read it and see!

Midsummer

Midsummer

What we did on this day, many years ago. (It wasn’t always this idyllic, btw.)

The Partisan Heart

Gordon Kerr’s fiction debut – The Partisan Heart – reminded me a lot of the books I used to read in the 1970s. That’s perhaps fitting, as it’s a crime thriller set alternately in Italy during the end of WWII and also over fifty years later, at the end of the 1990s.

Bad things happened in the war, and quite a few of the actions taken back then reverberate in the lives of some of the characters 55 years on. Englishman Michael has just lost his Italian wife in a car accident in Italy, and his life seems to be falling to pieces.

In true fiction hero style, discovering that she had some unexpected secrets, he decides to find out who his late wife’s lover was.

We also meet young Sandro, who was a partisan fighter in the war, in the same area that Michael’s wife came from. You can tell that some of the people from those times will still be around in the later story, but you’re not quite sure which ones, or how what they did influences later actions.

Wartime Italy seems to have become more popular, and this two-period kind of mystery/thriller is not unique. But Italy during the war is still unusual enough that I feel it merits more books.

The characters are mostly not all that likeable, with the exception of the barmaid in Scotland. But then, war did terrible things to ordinary people, and even worse to those who were already bad. I wouldn’t have minded not ever reading about some of the ways to kill other human beings. Even if it was in the war.

Gordon Kerr, The Partisan Heart

Refugee reads

The other night, I was suddenly reminded of Anne Holm’s I Am David. This lovely, lovely story has always been on my ‘journey book’ list. But it is also a refugee kind of story. And worth reading again.

I won’t lie. A publisher presented me with a list of their refugee books, and many of them are excellent. But I will let my mind wander of its own here, and see what I come up with. It will probably mean I forget a really important one, but…

When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, by Judith Kerr. I see from the comments that Judith wanted a cuckoo clock. It brings a whole more human scale to the refugee issue.

In the Sea There Are Crocodiles, told by Enaiatollah Akbari to Fabio Geda. Enaiatollah who’s a real refugee, but who was also refused a visa to come to the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Oh, those fears that everyone will want to come and live here illegally…

Like the poor souls we meet in Eoin Colfer’s and Andrew Donkin’s Illegal. All that suffering.

Life in refugee camps is no picnic, and The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon is a hard read. Necessary, but harrowing. Or you can read books by Elizabeth Laird and the Deborah Ellis stories from Afghanistan.

In No Ballet Shoes in Syria by Catherine Bruton the refugees have arrived, but don’t know if they will be allowed to stay. You need to adapt, but with no guarantee that it will be worth it.

A Candle in the Dark by Adèle Geras is almost happy by comparison. It’s Kristallnacht and Kindertransport territory, but when we read that book we believed we were improving year by year. Yes, it was bad back then, but no more…

Like the true story told by Eva Ibbotson, by one refugee about another. Still makes me want to cry.