Castle Waiting Vol. I and Castle Waiting Vol. II – Linda Medley

castlewaiting1I finally got around to buying Volume II of Castle Waiting recently. Once I started it, I realised pretty quickly that I really needed to reread Volume I first. So I did.

Linda Medley’s fairytale world is a charming, if sometimes quite disturbing, place. The first volume starts with a retelling of Sleeping Beauty from some of the peripheral characters’ point of view, which helps explain the existence of the castle as a refuge. The plot then moves on to Jain, who flees an abusive marriage and travels, pregnant, in search of Castle Waiting. Though people claim it’s just a legend, Jain is sure it exsists, and she has a map her father, who travelled widely in business, has drawn to guide her. After a long trip and a few adventures she arrives and is heartily welcomed by the castle’s inhabitants. As she makes herself at home and gets used to life at the castle, she is told the stories both of the castle and of the various inhabitants bit by bit, and these backstories make up a large part of the book. In volume one the main story, apart from Jain’s, is Sister Peace’s retelling of parts of her life and of how the Solicitine Nuns, an order of nuns conisiting solely of bearded ladies, came into being.

castlewaiting2The story continues in Volume II, which starts off with Rackham, the steward, giving Jain a tour of the castle. Guests arrive, two *ahem* dwarves (there is disagreement in the book around whether this is an acceptable term or not), or Hammerlings. We learn more of them, and of the slightly mysterious smith Henry, as well as more of Jain’s backstory (though far less than one could wish).

On the whole, the main problem with Castle Waiting is that there is no more (yet?). Linda Medley is officially “taking a break from writing any more chapters”, so let’s hope she returns to it eventually.

So what makes Castle Waiting so special? Well, the drawings are superb, the dialogue natural, the characters lovable (well, except when they’re not supposed to be). Moreover they are lovable despite, or even because of, their flaws. Just like real human beings, in fact. Medley borrows elements liberally from fairytales and folklore, Castle Waiting is a treasure trove of a character gallery for intertextuality freaks like me. Oh, and then there’s the babywearing, of course:

castle_waiting_babywearing
Babywearing while touring the castle, we like!

Kangaroo!

But more than anything what makes Castle Waiting so special is the effortless acceptance and celebration of difference, which comes from the knowledge that everyone has a story, that everyone needs acknowledgement and that everyone has a contribution to make.

Bukkene Bruse på badeland – Bjørn F. Rørvik og Gry Moursund

Jeg tenkte jeg skulle forsøke å få lagt ut litt fler omtaler av barnebøker som slår an hos treåringen (snart fire, hvordan gikk det til, egentlig?). Dagens bok er en superhit av de helt store her i huset.

RorvikBukkene Bruse på badeland bruker eventyret om bukkene som skal til seters for å gjøre seg fete som utgangspunkt på en riktig så intelligent måte. Det hele starter med at bukkene er på vei til setra som vanlig på begynnelsen av sommeren, og på veien ser de et nytt skilt der det står “Badeland”. De bestemmer seg for å sjekke hva dette er for noe. Men trollet har slett ikke tenkt å gå glipp av sin årlige krangel med bukkene, så det følger etter og lager kvalm for både gjester og ansatte på badeland.

De kjente elementene fra eventyret er vevd inn i den nye historien – trippinga over brua er for eksempel blitt til tripping i trappa opp til sklia – så gjenkjennelsesfaktoren er absolutt tilstede, noe som er et stort pluss for målgruppen. Det er også en bok det er gøy å lese høyt, fordi den åpner for mye lek med stemmeleie – som å la den minste bukken snakke mye lysere enn den største bukken – og innlevelse, som når den største bukken roper “Ædda bædda buse, trollet ha’kke truse!” eller trollet småfornærmet lurer på om det virkelig ikke er lov å bare sitte litt under trappa.

Alt i alt: Noe å sette på ønskelisten til jul, kanskje? Både jeg og treåringen gir i hvert fall tommelen opp!

The Ladies of Grace Adieu – Susanna Clarke

The Ladies of Grace Adieu by Susanna Clarke has been on my to-read list for quite some time, basically since I discovered it was out, I suppose. I did rather love Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, and was eager for more. From that point of view, The ladies of Grace Adieu was a little disappointing.

My first objection is hardly Clarke’s fault: I really do not like short stories. As usual, just as I was getting really interested in a story, it was over. I like a book I can really get my teeth into and which takes days, even weeks to finish unless you are in the happy position of being able to drop everything else for 10 hours upwards. So though the stories were good, they were too short.

Other than that, well, I guess I’m not so much interested in fairie- lore as just appreciative of “magical” plot devices. Had I been really into fairies and magic in a of its own, I suppose I would have been more interested, but I’m not.

Saying that, the book is still pretty great, just not quite I’d hoped for. Clarke handles language beautifully, changing tone, syntax and spelling to suit the supposed time of the narrative, and held me transfixed for minutes (until I got to the end of the story and had to start again with a different set of characters).

Ok, so I really don’t like short stories. Why do I keep reading them, I wonder?