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19 January 2011 @ 05:38 pm
The Wierdstone of Brisingamen  
I've only read one Alan Garner book, The Owl Service, which I suspect I was a little too young to properly appreciate. However our habit of walking at Alderley Edge and the presence of The Wierdstone of Brisingamen on our bookshelves prompted me to give him another chance. I wish I'd read Wierdstone when I was younger.

I really enjoyed the book. It has that combination of the real world and the mysterious which I love in children's literature and which I've always found missing in the Harry Potter books*. However, at the tender age of forty something, I did sometimes get distracted by concerns over hypothermia (there is a lot of swimming through flooded mine workings). If I'm being churlish I also found the rendering of Gowther's speech in phonetic Cheshire more off-putting than atmospheric.

I think the story shares much with The Fellowship of the Ring in terms of atmosphere. There is a sense of small people ranged against forces that far outstrip them in power, and victory is achieved by said small people doing what they must, which often involves sneaking and hiding rather than shows of strength or power. There are unexpected protectors along the way, a lost and fading elvish civilisation, themes of nature opposed to industrialisation and even a failed rendezvous with a wizard on top of a hill. I've always liked Fellowship the most of the three books in Lord of the Rings (the later volumes become fairly bogged down in descriptions of battles in places, as well as the infamous trek into Mordor, and loose the sense of wonder somewhat) and I liked Wierdstone almost as much.

I don't suppose this is really news to anyone on my flist. But The Wierdstone of Brisingamen is an excellent book and highly recommended to anyone who enjoys fantastical children's literature and/or Lord of the Rings.

*Obviously this isn't J.K.Rowlings' fault but I've always found her universe a little bit, well, mundane and certainly a little bit too mechanistic for my tastes. I like magic to be strange and wonderous when it crops up, not some kind of alternative branch of physics.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/31694.html.
Susanlil_shepherd on January 19th, 2011 05:49 pm (UTC)
Read The Moon of Gomrath.

Please read The Moon of Gomrath - the Celtic feel is even stronger and the language is exquisite. One sequence is even better than Tolkien for reading aloud - the lighting of the wendfire and what follows - and the book is deeper and darker and... well, I think it is even better than Weirdstone. In fact, it is my favourite of Garner's children's fantasies - I found Elidor rather mundane.

It also has the bestest last line ever.

Edited at 2011-01-19 05:52 pm (UTC)
fredbassettfredbassett on January 19th, 2011 06:20 pm (UTC)
And it has Albanac. *happy sigh*
Susanlil_shepherd on January 19th, 2011 06:35 pm (UTC)
I was trying to give a bit of tone here - but yes, it has Albanac *sighs happily.*

"Gold glinted at his ear, and his eyes were like burning ice."

I can quote chunks of The Moon of Gomrath without thinking about it.

Edited at 2011-01-19 06:43 pm (UTC)
fredbassettfredbassett on January 19th, 2011 06:44 pm (UTC)
LOL, me too!

Elaine of Astolatladyofastolat on January 19th, 2011 06:45 pm (UTC)
Ooh, I had a big crush on Albanac when I was 12.

Yes, when I was 12. Um... yes, that's it. Only then. :-)
Susanlil_shepherd on January 19th, 2011 06:47 pm (UTC)
We believe you. Thousands wouldn't. *grin*
inamacinamac on January 19th, 2011 06:48 pm (UTC)
I live in fear that some film maker will get his hands on the Weirdstone duology. Because there is no man alive on God's green earth who could possibly play Albanac.
fredbassettfredbassett on January 19th, 2011 07:21 pm (UTC)
And if anyone gave him or Atlendor pointed ears I would not be answerable for my actions.

One of my favourite bits is where he slumps down on the table in Fundindelve and falls asleep with his head on his arms, exhausted. It might have been the start of my well known hurt fetish. In my defence, I was about 9 at the time. But it still hits the spot every time.

I was chuffed to bits when Garner signed my copy of Weirdstone at the 50th Anniversary celebrations in Oct last year.
louisedennis: bookslouisedennis on January 20th, 2011 10:21 am (UTC)
Such unanimity from the flist is almost scary!
bunn: Smaugbunn on January 20th, 2011 11:39 am (UTC)
Well, not quite - I read both as a child, thought they were OK, nothing that special, have never bothered re-reading. Though I seem to remember one Halloween making a Brollachan costume, so it must have had some effect...

I can't remember how old I was though: possibly I was a bit young for them : the enthusiasm here is making me think maybe I should give them another go...
louisedennis: bookslouisedennis on January 21st, 2011 09:39 am (UTC)
I did really like the book a great deal, but I do think I would have enjoyed it more at about age 12, if you see what I mean. It's beautifully written but the bulk of its plot is straightforward travel/quest type stuff and it is obviously a childrens' book which, while not necessarily a problem, is also a constraint of sorts.
louisedennis: bookslouisedennis on January 20th, 2011 10:22 am (UTC)
Gomrath and Albanac duly noted. *g*
skordhskordh on January 19th, 2011 08:45 pm (UTC)
Hear hear. I read The Moon of Gomrath first for some reason and The Weirdstone quite a bit later (still just about in childhood). While I like both very much, it is in slightly different ways and I do think The Moon of Gomrath has more atmosphere. I also love the ending.
louisedennis: bookslouisedennis on January 20th, 2011 10:20 am (UTC)
The flist seems to be very much building a consensus on this subject. I shall have to acquire a copy though since we don't appear to have on in the house.
Pollyjane_somebody on February 9th, 2011 10:36 am (UTC)
Huh, did you, I didn't know that. I read Weirdstone first and love it most, but I do wonder if there's an element of the one you read first being favourite (like the Doctor.) Anyway, after all the comments here I think I'll have to try Moon of Gomrath again soon, though I think I'll read Weirdstone again first :-)
Pollyjane_somebody on February 9th, 2011 10:43 am (UTC)
Also, despite various comments supra, I am very fond of both Elidor and The Owl Service as well. Elidor is slightly younger, and The Owl Service slightly older in audience terms, I'd say. (Though having said that my brother first tried Elidor at about 9 or 10 and it gave him terrible nightmares. I think I was about 12/13 when I first read it, it was certainly after Weirdstone/Gomrath. And then maybe 13/14 for Owl Service.) I didn't really get on with Red Shift which is for older readers again (though it's one of the few bits of astrophysics that's ever stuck with me, so that's something!)
louisedennis: bookslouisedennis on January 20th, 2011 10:23 am (UTC)
Looks like The Moon of Gomrath needs to be acquired (the house doesn't seem to have it!)
fredbassettfredbassett on January 19th, 2011 06:19 pm (UTC)
Seconds Lil's rec of Moon of Gomrath. I adore Weirdstone, but Gomrath owns my heart.

Speaking as a caver (and someone who has caved in the Alderley Edge Mines), the passage of West Mine and even the Erldelving, flooded sections and sump diving nonetheless is feasible without hypothermia, even in ordinary clothes, as the group kept moving, and the strenuous sections would have warmed them up again. I wouldn't *like* to do that trip dressed like that, but it is survivable without hypothermia.
louisedennislouisedennis on January 20th, 2011 10:18 am (UTC)
That's good to know, I did keep thinking that they must be awfully wet and cold which is a combination I've always been taught to avoid.

Gomrath does not appear to be in the house. It's obviously going to have to go on the Wish List.
fredbassettfredbassett on January 20th, 2011 10:23 am (UTC)
It's definitely a combination that you'd be well advised to avoid, But I'm certain I could do that trip in ordinary clothes and survive. Kids their age have less resilience, but it's certainly not impossible. I could tell you some horrific stories of what kids have managed to do underground and still live to tell the tale.
Susanlil_shepherd on January 20th, 2011 01:06 pm (UTC)
There was a new paperback edition last year.
bigtitchbigtitch on January 19th, 2011 10:45 pm (UTC)
I love Weirdstone and Gonrath us awesome too. I also think that Susan is one of the best heroines in fantasy literature. I cheer each time I read her 'sod this!' moment when she sets off up the hill rather than let the Morthbrood take the stone.
Susanlil_shepherd on January 20th, 2011 08:44 am (UTC)
Both Susan and Colin both come across as realistic kids and as fantasy heroes. Oh, I do wish Garner had written a third book about the "evil growing in the North" and their fight against it.
fredbassettfredbassett on January 20th, 2011 10:25 am (UTC)
So do I. None of his other books measured up to Weirdstone and Gomrath in my estimation.
louisedennis: bookslouisedennis on January 20th, 2011 10:21 am (UTC)
I liked that bit. All those men dithering and procrastinating and the Susan says "well I'm not just waiting here."
jesusandrewjesusandrew on January 20th, 2011 04:22 am (UTC)
If you like audiobooks, Naxos have released both books in this series as read by Philip Madoc. I don't normally buy books on CD, but I stumbled across "The Moon of Gomrath" for $5 at a stocktaking sale last year and snapped it up when I recognised the narrator as I've always liked his voice.
louisedennis: bookslouisedennis on January 20th, 2011 10:16 am (UTC)
I don't get on with audio books, I'm not sure why, same with most radio drama, even listening to them in the car makes me tense and restless. I suspect it's something to do with not being able to progress at my own rate.
jesusandrewjesusandrew on January 20th, 2011 10:57 am (UTC)
I can understand that - while I'm OK with radio drama, I rapidly lose patience with audiobooks unless I really like the voice. I much prefer to read.
Susanlil_shepherd on January 20th, 2011 12:52 pm (UTC)
The BBC did a radio version of Gomrath which stripped all the prose-poetry out of it. Luckily, they have never, as far as I know, committed it to CD or tape - though I have an off-air tape somewhere.