Friday, December 16, 2011

Fiction Friday (6)

As we get near the holidays, it's always good to provide plenty of reviews to allow us all to fill those wishlists. I wanted to share two classic children's novels from the 1800's and early 1900's that have all but been forgotten. The idea of forgotten books is one that upsets me, being that I will someday be the author of a few forgotten books. It's inevitable. Trends change and people always will have a need to hear stories from their generation. But I never understand the reader who only reads contemporary books. It's important to know the foundations of the current novel structure, especially as a writer. So I always try to read a few classics every year. Here are two that I read in the last few months. Both were Christmas presents last year, so it seems apt to share them now. Enjoy.

Veronica by Johanna Spyri

This is a traditional cautionary tale about two children beset by tragedy early on, only to be given good fortune as they grow older and closer. However the two set out on different paths as they become adults. One is impatient to have all that he wants and falls victim to the negative influences of a friend who steers him toward ruin. Veronica, the other, is virtuous and hard-working, yet sorrow is never far from her thoughts. So they both have their lessons to learn, and as is the case with most books written in this time, they eventually find their way and come together again.

After reading the author's far superior and better known work, Heidi, I was disappointed in this short novel. Whereas Heidi felt very contemporary and timeless, this story is heavily dated in its Christian moralism. The characters were very flat, which surprised me given the depth of many of the characters in Heidi. All in all, it was okay, mainly because it was so slim. If it had lingered any longer, I'm not sure I would have enjoyed it. That said, it was an interesting read. Knowing that an author can write a classic that stands the test of time, yet still fail with others is inspirational for a writer in a way.

Like Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, this is another Victorian children's book written solely for the entertainment for one child, 12 year old Effie Gray. The connection between the two books is furthered by a later friendship between Lewis Carroll and eventually the Liddles (Alice's family). Being a fan of Lewis Carroll's, and Victorian children's literature in general, this book was naturally a must read. It's a slim novella, easily read in one sitting, that adheres to a classical morality fairy tale about selfishness and compassion. The fantasy elements are truly intriguing and there are moments of beautifully lyrical writing. The illustrations add a nice quality as well. All in all, it's a well-done fairy tale.

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