Nina's Reading Blog

Comments on books I am reading/listening to

Archive for September, 2015

Three from the Chronicles of Narnia

Posted by nliakos on September 15, 2015

by C. S. Lewis (Harper Collins, 1951 – 1954)

When C. S. Lewis was writing the Narnia books, I was a child, but I never read them as a child; I discovered them as an adult. I don’t remember how, but it may have been after I read and enjoyed Out of the Silent Planet, which is still one of my favorite books (although I did not care for the two sequels in that trilogy). In any case, I read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and followed that up with the remaining six in the series. Since then, I have re-read The Lion… and seen the movie a couple of times, but I never re-read the other books. Now that I am retired, I decided to revisit them.

I began with Book 3, The Horse and His Boy (published in 1954). This story of the boy Shasta (not his real name!) and the talking Narnian horse Bree takes place during the reign of Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy as kings and queens of Narnia following the defeat of the White Witch in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Having nothing to lose, Shasta sets out with Bree to escape his native country of Calormen. They join forces with the Princess Aravis and the talking mare Hwin, and together they have many adventures before ending up in Archenland, a country to the south of Narnia.

Next, I read Book 4, Prince Caspian (1951). This one takes place one year after the four children have returned to England, but in Narnia, hundreds of years have gone by, and Narnia is undergoing dark days again, having been conquered by the Telmarines, a human race. The talking animals and dwarves of “Old Narnia” have gone into hiding. Prince Caspian should by rights have succeeded his father Caspian IX as king, but his evil uncle Miraz has usurped the throne, and Caspian is forced to flee for his life. However, he is able to summon Peter and his siblings from England to help him defeat Miraz and restore Narnia to its magical subjects. The movie follows the plot pretty closely but is more violent than the book.

Book 5, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, was published in 1952. In this Odyssey-like voyage, Edmund and Lucy are drawn into Narnia with their annoying cousin Eustace, and all three accompany Caspian (now King of Narnia), the mouse Reepicheep, and other Narnians on a voyage to the end of the world. On the way, they explore a number of islands, where they encounter some extremely strange beings and situations. When they find themselves in really sticky situations, Aslan always rescues them. We are going to watch the movie on Friday.  Like the movie of Prince Caspian, the movie looks much more exciting than the book!

After reading these three of the Narnia chronicles, I am kind of underwhelmed. I remember them as better than I am finding them this time. They are OK, but there is little that is amazing.

English language learners who enjoy fantasy will not find these difficult to understand.


Posted in Children's and Young Adult, Fiction, Recommended for ESL or EFL Learners | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Now I’ll Tell You Everything

Posted by nliakos on September 13, 2015

by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (Atheneum 2013)

As some readers of this blog may know, I am a big fan of the Alice McKinley series, and I’ve been meaning to read this, the last in the series, ever since it came out, but it took me two years to get around to it. Maybe I was worried that it would disappoint.

There were no big surprises. Each chapter covers so much territory; whereas previous books in the series only covered four months of Alice’s life, this one takes her from her freshman year at the University of Maryland until about age sixty, when Alice and members of her seventh grade class dig up the time capsule they buried 48 years earlier. Alice graduates from college, gets engaged, breaks the engagement, gets engaged again. She has sex for the first time. She gets a job. She gets married, moves into her first apartment, buys a home (in Chevy Chase), has kids, deals with problems at work and at home, moves away, moves back to Maryland. Members of her family grow old and die; Alice herself confronts a cancer diagnosis. It’s a whole adult lifetime; a lot happens, but none of it surprised me (not that I really wanted it to). It isn’t as funny or as poignant as the other books because Naylor doesn’t really have the time to build up any suspense about any of it.

It may sound as though I didn’t enjoy it, but that’s not true. I tore through all 511 pages in two days. Although I would not have missed it, I would not recommend it as a stand-alone book. It’s like a love letter from the author to all of her Alice fans, like the one who wrote to her wondering how people would ever know if Alice married Patrick if Naylor happened to die before she finished the series, which prompted her to write a draft and lock it up with instructions to publish it if anything should happen to her.

Incidentally, Naylor lives right here in Gaithersburg, and the book I borrowed from the Gaithersburg library was inscribed, For FOL Gaithersburg–Best wishes, Phyllis Naylor, Jan 2014. The book is full of references to the Washington, DC area, the University of Maryland, and other places Alice and her family live or visit. I was aware of only one gaffe: as far as I know, nobody refers to the UMD student union as “Adele Stamp” (it’s “the Stamp” or just “Stamp”).

Finally, projecting forty years into Alice’s future results in a kind of time warp (because Alice is always contemporary to her readers). But anything else would have been fantasy. And as Alice’s fans know, Alice is real!

Posted in Children's and Young Adult, Fiction | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »