13 October, 2012

The Three Royal Monkeys by Walter de la Mare (1910)

What an absolute delight. This is a magical tale of three monkey brothers who go in search of their father, and have great adventure along the way. De la Mare wrote ghost stories and poetry, and viewed children with their extraordinary imaginations as sort of creative visionaries. You can almost feel him reaching back for this here. There's an unbridled playfulness with language in this novel that prefigures CS Lewis and Tolkien - in fact I'd be surprised if de la Mare wasn't an influence on them. What's more, this heartwarming celebration of brotherhood is now available free online.

06 October, 2012

Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban (1980)

I only knew Hoban by his children's stories, but this novel is nothing of the sort and, well, there's no other way to say it - Riddley Walker is a masterpiece. Set in SE England, many generations after a nuclear apocalypse, a remnant population grasps at fragments of language, technology and legend as they try to reconstruct the 'clevver' times. Courageously written in a crude, bastardised English that presents an immediate barrier to the reader, it is this striking language that ultimately feeds the rich, mysterious and desperate atmosphere of the novel and lifts it into something truly remarkable. Russell Hoban died last year.