The Owl Service by Alan Garner **
I purchased this because it was recommended to me by a family friend, who said its story was fantastic and incredibly clever. The premise of the tale is certainly interesting. A scratching noise is heard in the loft of Roger and Alison’s home in Wales, and the son of their housekeeper, Gwyn, goes to investigate. He finds a service of plates with owls painted upon them, the patterns of which disappear despite them being glazed. They randomly begin to smash, with no clue as to why. The paper models which Alison makes by tracing the designs on the plates disappear.
Whilst the story sounds good, it feels too drawn out, which is a real shame. There are great chunks of narrative where nothing much happens, and if I belonged to its intended child audience, I imagine that I would have been incredibly bored with the tale. I didn’t much like all of the dialect used throughout, as it felt a little too overworked. The entirety was underdeveloped, and I did not empathise with any of the characters. Their actions were not believably coherent, and it appeared rather disjointed in consequence. There were also a few loose ends which did not join up. On the strength (or lack thereof) of The Owl Service, I would not pick up another of Garner’s books in a hurry.
At Large and At Small: Literary Essays by Anne Fadiman ****
I adore reading literary essays, and after reading this wonderful collection, I feel I should do so more often. I have read and very much enjoyed Fadiman’s Ex Libris in the past, hence my choice to purchase this. A wonderful wealth of material has been included within its pages, and Fadiman writes of such topics as Samuel Taylor Coleridge, ice cream, insomnia and Lepidoptera. She fills each essay with marvellous facts and glorious quotes. Her writing is both honest and exuberant, and the entirety is very enjoyable. I was originally intending to use it as a supplementary volume to another book which I could read throughout October, but once I had begun, I found it very difficult to put down.
Room by Emma Donoghue ****
(Thank you April, for very kindly sending me this book!)
I have put off reading Room for such a long time, believing that it would be terribly sad and uncomfortable to get through. My curiosity eventually got the better of me, however, and when this lovely book plopped through my letterbox, I was eager to begin. I told April when I was reading that Room is powerful and sad and lovely, and it is all of those things, and so much more. It tells the story of five-year-old Jack, who lives in Room with his Ma, a woman who was kidnapped when she was still a teenager and who has been held there ever since. The confines of Room are his world, and he believes that everything outside Room is a fabrication created by the television. Jack’s voice is striking and believable. I adore unreliable child narrators, and he is thankfully no exception. In Room, Donoghue has demonstrated how incredibly perceptive she is, and how well she can write a novel.