Once, many years ago, I knocked on the front door of a stranger’s house just to get a glimpse of what was inside.
Windows and doors hint at and promise so much. They are literal entrances into other worlds.
Someone did answer the door I knocked on, all those years ago, and I seem to remember a dark and empty hallway: Nothing to see, move along, move along. I don’t know what I’d expected. Probably nothing. It was not knowing that spurred me into action. The possibility of what lay behind the polished wooden slats was irresistible. The reality could not help but be a disappointment.
The prelude to Dongeng by Anna Tan sets the scene and fulfils the promise of the book’s title: This is a story set in the world of fairytales. Sang Kancil makes a brief appearance, confirming that, as the title suggests, the fairytales will be those of the Malay world.
The title also seems to remind us that the world we are about to enter, via the story, is an imaginary one. While we may be expected to suspend our disbelief as we immerse ourselves in Tan’s words, the title stresses that this is a fairy story. Or is it? Certainly, as I read more, I began to see that the book’s title might allude to the doubt and skepticism felt by the novel’s protagonist about what she encounters. Indeed, the title seems also to cheekily reference the reader’s own assumptions that the story being told is pure fantasy.
‘Chapter One’ plunges us into the thick of things: Sara, the protagonist, finds herself in the middle of a forest, on a moss-covered dais no less. A city girl, who lives in Kuala Lumpur, she is immediately aware that something really odd is afoot, and so, one of her first observations is that her handbag has travelled to the forest with her and that nothing in it has gone missing — as it would be inconvenient to have to apply for a new identity card and cancel her credit card. This response is rather incongruous, but not entirely implausible, I suppose, considering how traumatised Sara must be to find herself whisked away to another world.Read More »
The Exploits of Moominpappa, aka Moominpappa’s Memoirs is the fourth book in the Moomin series by Tove Jansson.
In this book, we find out about Moominpappa’s background and past. He is writing a memoir and he reads from it to his son Moomintroll, and Moomintroll’s friends Snufkin and Sniff.
As it turns out, Moominpappa’s early days were spent with Snufkin and Sniff’s fathers — the Joxter and the Muddler from whom, we see, many traits have been inherited by their offspring.
Moominpappa’s origins are quite romantic as he was left, wrapped in newspaper, at an orphanage run by a Hemulen. One day, having had enough of his colourless existence in the orphanage, and the Hemulen’s strict ways, he runs away.Read More »
One of my favourite fantasy series is Joan Aiken’s Wolves Chronicles. There are twelve books, including a prequel (The Whispering Mountain), with Dido Twite the protagonist in most of the stories.
After I read Calmgrove‘s post about The Stolen Lake, I couldn’t resist re-reading it. It’s the fourth book in the main series and my favourite as I find it has the most thrilling and unusual plot. The ever plucky and pragmatic Dido is also especially endearing in this installment. I like her so much and find her optimism and can-do attitude inspiring and cheering. (I want to be Dido when I grow up.)
In this story, Dido is onboard the HMS Thrush, heading back to England. Dido, having escaped death and worse in the previous two books (Blackhearts in Battersea and Nightbirds on Nantucket), is looking forward to going home and is dismayed when the Thrush is forced to make a detour after the Captain of the ship is summoned by the Queen of New Cumbria (a country in Roman America, Aiken’s alternate history version of South America). Surprisingly, the Queen requests that he bring Dido with him.
It turns out that Queen Ginevra requires help to get back the country’s ceremonial lake which she claims has been stolen by the King Mabon, ruler of the neighbouring Lyonesse. Even more surprising is that the Queen is apparently more than a thousand years old and is waiting for the return of her husband, King Arthur. Could her longevity be linked to the noticeable absence of female children in New Cumbria?
Dido is soon in the thick of another adventure, this time one involving an imprisoned princess; shape-shifting witches; human sacrifice; cannibalism; and reincarnation.
I’d resolved to re-read less this year in order to make some progress with my TBR list, but I’ve decided to just read whatever I feel like. I will be re-reading Black Hearts in Battersea next.