One of my all-time favourite novels is Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner. (more about that book later). The story concludes with the words ‘…she wrote, Coming home. But, after a moment she thought that this was not entirely accurate and crossing out the words Coming home wrote simply Returning.’ Perhaps many of us, slowly emerging from the dark of lockdown into the light of being able to put words on paper, identify with Brookner’s narrator. We’ve always been at home. Now we are returning.
I’ve spent some of the hours of confinement attempting to clear out the years of accumulating ‘stuff’ in my workroom. In particular, my box files of newspapers going back to the years of 1940. I collected them for research for my current WIP set in the mid-1950s. Let’s not dwell on the fact that the boxes have almost never been opened, let alone their contents used.
However, before I shut them up to be ‘dealt with’ later (during never-never time?) I discovered a front page from the Saturday Guardian Review dated 01.05.10. The headline read, Andrew O’Hagen on talking animals. A subject I can always read about as I loved reading the stories by Beatrix Potter, pub.F.Warne & Co.Ltd; the tales of Sam Pig by Alison Uttley pub, Puffin Books; the goings-on at Blackberry Farm by Jane Pilgrim, pub. Hodder&Stoughton; and, of course about the escapades of Paddington Bear told by Michael Bond with beautiful illustrations by Fred Banbury, pub Collins. I was less keen on the Little Grey Rabbit books by Alison Uttley although the illustrations, as little framed pictures, by Katherine Wigglesworth, were perfect;Pub Collins. Now, I understand, children’s books must not represent animals talking together as human beings do, let alone be shown to be creatures of gentleness and good sense. How sad. Even more so as the article makes the point that ‘Every literature culture has among its first bearings the “blether’” of animals who seek to make sense of human existence.’
Maybe a young, fresh writer, will have a re-think.
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