Saturday, 28 April 2012

There was a book on the shelves of

the local charity shop last week. It was a book I remembered as having enjoyed when I was about six or seven. I could even vaguely remember the plot. It was by Enid Blyton. Out of curiosity I paid twenty cents for it and brought it home to look at it.
I could not read it. I squirmed. The plot was impossible - two children run away from a bad tempered aun and a work shy uncle. They go and live in a hollow tree in the middle of a forest.  Eventually they end up living with the poor-little-rich-girl who has befriended them.
The language is stilted. The characters are flat and lifeless. The ending is sugar-sweet-happily-ever-after.
Mmm...that is probably a clue as to why I liked it as a child. There was a happy ending. I know I needed happy endings in books around then.
I passed it over to the Whirlwind to read and asked her what she thought of it. She is much too old for it now but I thought she might be interested. She was but she did not finish reading it. She summed it up in one word - "Boring".
There was the usual exaggerated sigh that comes when I ask her to explain something like that. Then she said,
       "It's not real. It has to sound real and that doesn't."
      "What do you mean?"
      "Well she tells you what they look like but she doesn't. On the first page she tells you that they have blue eyes and black hair but she does not tell you what they are really like. You don't know what any of them really look like. She just makes the aunt all horrible and the uncle all lazy and the other girl all nice and her parents sort of all nice too."
       "Well people aren't like that. You know that. You did it with Michael and Chantal. You know what Pauline looks like - inside as well as outside. I'd know her if I saw her."  I understand she is referring to Margaret Storey's heroine, "Pauline". The Whirlwind has just re-read the book again. "If you want people to be real you have to know about them inside as well as outside. You know what Bruno is like and that is all short bits. (She was referring to Colin Thiele's Sun on the Stubble.) You don't even really have to know what they look like outside. It is the inside bit that really matters. I like it when the book tells you about the inside of the people."
So do I.


Shauna said...

I totally agree. I almost prefer the current style of next to no physical description so you can imagine the characters yourself (which I do anyway). But to care about a character we need to know there motivations, and we all know that real people aren't one dimensional. We're all a mixture of good and not so good - that's one reason for so many self help books!

Shauna said...

Oops sorry about the typo above - I really do know the difference between their and there.

JO said...

Years ago some Australian relatives sent me a book - Blinky Bill! I still remember the illustrations, so it must have been very special.

Just a though, Cat - is Blinky Bill still alive and well, or has he been pensioned off?

catdownunder said...

Still alive but not particularly well Jo. Usually comes out as cheap versions along with things like the Gumnut Babies and so on. (It reminds me that I have not seen a copy of a couple of other things for a while, "The Magic Pudding" and "Dot and the Kangaroo" - never had much time for either of those.