A few weeks ago my coworker said, "Have you read Jo Walton? You should read Tooth and Claw. It's like Trollope, but with dragons."
I love Trollope. And dragons—they are compelling.
I went to the library, and of course they didn't have Tooth and Claw, but they did have Farthing and Ha'Penny, which I took out, and read, and enjoyed. But I did not fall in love.
Time went on (as it does), and I was in a bookstore, nosing around, still looking for Tooth and Claw, when I came upon this.
And then I read the back, which talked about magic and children and reading. And I bought it.
How to explain myself here? I was moved, deeply moved, but in the oddest way. I felt torn between identifying so much with the voice of the main character, an angry, sharp, hurt child—and also, seeing her as my child, rather than myself.
This has never happened with me before when reading something. I still can't quite get my mind around it. The story is told in diary form, and at times the voice is almost too teenaged—embarrassed and self-conscious and arrogant. But it's written by an adult, and that distance is there too.
I read it thinking, "I have to give this to Diana to read. She needs to know that she's not the only one sneaking into the library as if into a haven of purest delight. She needs to know that there are others like her." I thought it would be that book that powerfully connected us.
When I came to the part where the main character finds others who read like her, I cried. The possibilty of connection, and the reality of daily isolation, exploded for me there.
So of course, here's the thing: it left Diana unmoved. Unmoved! "I wanted there to be more with the aunts."
"Well, I wanted there to be more with the aunts, too, but the voice…."
"And I didn't think the boyfriend thing made sense. I mean, it was all right, but." But no.
So: if you have—or were—a heavy-reading, fantasy-loving kid, you should read this. Maybe even hand it over to your kid?* It may work better for him or her than it did for mine.
Also: As I have been sorting through this book and my feelings about it, I came upon two awesome things.
1) Ursula K. LeGuin has a blog. Oh my God.
2) And SHE was reading Among Others at the same time as I was. URSULA K. LEGUIN AND I WERE READING THE SAME BOOK AT THE SAME TIME. And she wrote a post about it.
3) She posts pictures of her cat on her blog, which just goes to show you that…what? The internet has its own quite terrifying power. Also, not to show off or anything, but her cat and my cat look very similar. I'll bet you're all pretty impressed by that.
There are so many books in the world for parents whose kids don't read. But this is an amazing book to read for the parents of those kids who do. Not on purpose or anything. But just that…it is.
*[Note + Spoiler Alert: There is a pretty crazy section where the main character's father gets drunk and tries to sleep with her, which I am still not quite over, but if you were thinking about offering it to your kid, just know that in advance, maybe?]