Sunday, May 6, 2007

A Little Bit Dark...

Last week, my mother told me that a friend of hers--a woman she knows from church-- had written a book for children.

I yawned. I expected a self-published tale of floopsy the bunny, who teaches kids about the importance of literacy or something...

Then I discovered that THIS, A Drowned Maiden's Hair, was the book! It sounds absolutely wonderful. Dark and coldly Victorian. But also sweet and affirming.

So then I had to eat my words (or at least my yawn)

While I haven't read it yet and so can't review it here (I just ordered it from my library) I adore the first line: "On the morning of the best day of her life, Maud Flynn was locked in the outhouse, singing, The Battle Hymn of the Republic."

But hearing about this new dark and sweet book got me thinking about the wonderfully dark (but also sweet) books of Joan Aiken. And in case you don't know them, I want to be the one to tell you... they're great!

My favorite is "Black Hearts in Battersea," the second book in the "Wolves" series.

These books take place in an alternate universe, but it isn't a completely invented fantasy-world, it's a historical one. And set in England in the early 1800s,it actually FEELS historical, though never dull-- full as each book is with bawdy roustabouts, spritely waifs, dismal London streets, mad dashes across dark moors, and political unrest...

Not to mention hilarious songs and the occasional balloon ride.

In the world of Simon, a young art student (and our charming main character) James II was never deposed, and Simon (loyal to the crown) matches wits with the evil "Hanoverians" (who are often drunk but always a stitch) intent on bringing down the good king, James III.

Very English. Very smart. Very funny. A little bit frightening and a little bit sad in moments. With a fine silt of dingy coal dust everywhere...

If you don't know the Aiken books, I strongly urge you to get yourself to a library or a bookstore. There are lots of them, and once you start reading you're bound to have a stack beside your bed.

Oh, and you should know that this is a series you can read out of order. The books relate to one another, but they also stand alone (and I'll tell you as an author that's no mean feat!).

So don't worry about starting in the middle. Just start!


Jen Robinson said...

Oh, you must read A Drowned Maiden's Hair. I think that you'll really appreciate it. I liked what you said in another post about how the Olivia Kidney book was good because it never had to tell you that the author or the character is smart. I think that's so important.

Thanks for visiting my blog today. I'm happy to have found yours, and will certainly be back.

Anne L. said...

Oh yes, A Drowned Maiden's Hair won a Cybils award ( this year -- that's the contest for us blogging types. Maybe you'll join us for 2007?

Thanks for visiting Book Buds today. I'll be adding you to my blogroll.


Lady S. said...

Just came over from Fuse #8 to read this, and must add another encouragement to read A Drowned Maiden's Hair, unneeded though it now is. Always lovely to see another fan of Joan Aiken's James III/Dido+/Wolves books!

Drowned Maiden seems even more Eva Ibbotson than JA to me but I'm looking forward to seeing what you think when you've read it.

Laurel said...

Okay, I ran off to google... and now I totally have to go and order up some Ibbotson. Thank you!

cloudscome said...

I absolutely loved Drowned Maiden's Hair. How amazing that your mom goes to church with Schlitz!

Laurel said...

It's a very funny little world. And Baltimore is a small town, really. She (Laura) actually teaches works at my father's (once upon a time) elementary school too. Though I've never met her.

Next time I'm home I'll stalk her for sure!!!