Seven Ages of Books (2)

Last month, in the first part of this series, we went all the way back to my first decade and looked at the books and authors that influenced my very early years. This month, we are moving forward into my teens, when I first discovered fantasy, a genre that is still one of my favourites today.

I first came across Alan Garner’s debut novel, The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, not as a book, but as a serial on the Home Service (the forerunner of BBC Radio 4) in 1963 and it had such an effect on me that even now, more than fifty years later, I still feel the urge to hide if I see a flock of crows flying in my direction – and on the one occasion I travelled to Alderley Edge for a meeting, I could hardly concentrate on the proceedings inside for staring out of the window at the scenery and noisy bird life.

In a retelling of the old legend of a sleeping army awaiting a call to save the country from danger, two children, Colin and Susan, face evil witches, flying spies (hence the crows!) and sinister localised fog, as they try to prevent the eponymous jewel falling into the wrong hands.

This is the first part of a trilogy which took Garner more than fifty years to complete (and I have to confess I’ve not yet got around to reading the third part). It’s considered a children’s book, although not written as such. I read it as a child and return to it periodically as an adult. And whenever I pick up my copy, I am taken straight back to that little house in Birmingham; sitting around the radio trembling at the cawing crows.

This is the book that taught me the power of imagination. Reading and being read to (and that’s all a radio drama is after all) enable us to put our own interpretation on stories and characters in a way that film and television tend to stifle.

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  • Madalyn Morgan Reply

    Lovely post, Elizabeth. it made me think. The first book I read that wasn’t a biography or a typical standard read, was The Golden Torc. I was swept away by it. Totally transported. Love your posts. Thank you. x

    • Elizabeth Ducie Reply

      I have the Julian May books on my shelves, Maddie. I had forgotten about them. Thanks for the reminder; I must look them up again. So many wonderful books… Ex

      • Madalyn Morgan Reply

        Your reply saddened me, Elizabeth. It reminded me that I gave my Julian May, Agatha Christie – penguin collection – and other books to the local charity shop when I left London. You’ve made me question whether I should take the pile of books in front of me to the charity shop, or buy another bookcase? xx

        • Elizabeth Ducie Reply

          I know the feeling. We have more than 3.5K books and buy more each week. We only ever give away ones that we don’t like, or can’t finish. We know we can’t keep on like this for ever, but for the moment, we keep stuffing the shelves!

  • Celia Moore Reply

    Lord of the Rings was and still is, so special to me – land and creatures of make-believe – Tolkein took me on a more intricate journey than the Greek myths and legends I had been obsessed with when I first started reading. Thank you for taking me back to the beginning of my love affair with magical and thought provoking things that other people create and share from their imagination. xxx

  • Elizabeth Ducie Reply

    Special for me too, Celia. And a little spoiler: you are going to love part 4 of this series! Ex

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