Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Books I Want to Reread, Part 2

Beauty by Robin McKinley

I'll always stop and look at fairy tale retellings, even if I don't necessarily read them. McKinley's Beauty is a version of Beauty and the Beast, told in delightful, spare but beautiful prose. Like many of the books on the list, I first read this many years ago and I've never taken the time to go back to it. (I don't have the pretty cover shown on my copy, but I can't find a picture of my cover on the 'net and I think this one is very nice, so I've used it instead.)

It's full of lovely moments and little twists on the classic tale that enhance McKinley's version rather than distracting from it. Beauty's real name turns out to be Honor, but when the concept of honour was explained to her when she was a girl, her reaction was to grumble, "I'd rather be a beauty" and the name stuck.

When living with the beast, Beauty discovers his library, which turns out to hold all the books ever written, even if they actually haven't been yet. As Beauty falls into the magic of the place she begins to see these extra books and reads them too, even if she doesn't always fully understand the content. What booklover isn't going to be entranced by the idea of such a library.

This is indeed a fairy tale, with a light and lovely touch and I hope I find time to reread it.

McKinley later wrote another version of Beauty and the Beast called Rose Daughter, which is a much more complicated and layered tale than this one. I never managed to finish it and I much perfer the light, gentle touch of this book. But of course, that's just me and others may not agree.

Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm

This is yet anothger long ago read, of which I only remember basic details. But like the other books on this list, it left a good impression on me and I'd like to go back to it and see if it holds up.

The cover shown here is from the Gollancz SF Masterworks edition, which shows this is not a new book. It was originally published in 1975. It is an apocalyptic tale about one family's attempts to save itself as human fertility goes into decline and the population begins to fail. It's a book about cloning, still firmly in the realm of science fiction for all by some cutting-edge researchers back in 1975 and does what SF is supposed do - looks at the possibilites inherent in current research and the dangers that might arise.

I don't remember all the details, but one line has stuck with me, from near the end (or possibly the very end) of the book where a character looks down on his community and relects on the wonder of it that "the children were all different".

Something about this book haunted me - and I suspect that at the age I read it, a lot of it went over my head - so I want to go back to it and see what I can discover in it as the person I am now and from the perspective of middle age and parenthood.

Alien Taste in the Ukiah Oregon series by Wen Spencer (followed by the rest of the series)

For a change, not an old book but still a relatively recent one. Alien Taste was published in 2001 and so far has been followed by another three books. I have no idea if Spencer plans to write any more about Ukiah, but I hope she does at some point.

In this book I found something rare - a completely new idea (at least to me - if it has been done somewhere else, I haven't read it) - and that was part of its appeal. Oh, the basic premise isn't so new, but some of Spencer's applications - the blood mice in particular - were new and clever. And Ukiah is just such a cool character.

The reasons for wanting to reread this time are just that simple. I liked the books, I loved the main character and I'd like to go off adventuring with him again.

The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge

A children's book this time, and while I don't remember exactly when I read it, I suspect I was in the target age group, if at the higher end. Another fairy tale kind of book about orphaned Maria who goes to live in this big old house and gets caught up in a mystery about the history of the house and family. I remember the plot twist, that I think I figured out even when I first read it, but that was okay as it was set up for you to do so if you were paying attention.

I remember the tone as being lovely and not talking down to children who read it - the magic of a children's book that adults can go back and enjoy later. Which is what I want to do.

I remember it as a magical book and I hope it still will be all these years later. I've seen adult bloggers reviewing it and having enoyed it and it is still in print after first being published in 1946, so those are all encourage signs that it will stand the test of time.

Touch Not the Cat by Mary Stewart

Another old book, but an adult one this time. Mary Stewart wrote modern novels with a mystery and a bit of romance, all with a gothic air, primarily between 1955 and 1975. I've read a lot of them over the years (favourites being The Ivy Tree, Airs Above the Ground and Nine Coaches Waiting) and while this one fits the basic pattern, I always felt it was a little on the different side as well.

It has a touch of the mystic - a psychic heroine who is in touch mentally with one of her cousins but doesn't know which - and a mention of New Zealand, both things to catch my attention.

And while The Ivy Tree will probably remain my favourite Mary Stewart, for some reason this is the one I want to reread.

1 comment:

Nicki said...

I LOVE Touch Not the Cat. It might be my favourite Mary Stewart :)