Monday, January 16, 2017

Five Children - and the sequel

Once a girl walked out of her public library with a book about five children.  The children dug up a prehistoric sand fairy who could grant them wishes.  It was rather impolite, snobby and self-important.  And It's magic had some bugs that never quite got worked out.  When the girl became a Mom, she read that book and its two sequels to her child.  Wonderful!  E. Nesbit was a favorite author for them both.
This is the copy I own.  It is certainly an odd looking fairy.

Half a century late, someone else wrote a book about those five children and that strange fairy.  Kate Saunders' Five Children on the Western Front brings us up to date with the Pemberton children.  Cyril is no longer a child.  At the start of the book, he is an officer awaiting his marching orders in the Great War.  Robert is at Cambridge, studying writing, of course.  Anthea is studying art.  Jane is at the Girl's high school.  The Lamb, (nee Hilary, much to his disgruntlement) is at Poplar school.  And Edie, an addition to the family, is at the local village school.  It is the very beginning of WWI.

The Lamb and Edie dig up the Psammyead and It is not happy at all.  Not at all.  The Pembertons refer to the Psammyead as "he" and so shall I.

When someone takes it upon themselves to write sequels to well-loved novels, I worry.  With relief, I'm glad to say that Saunders does "a bit of all right" with this book.  The Psammyead's magic is unstable in this story.  The world is unstable, too.  Somewhere close to the half way mark, we learn that the Psammyead has to make amends for his past.  And he does by helping people who are in similar circumstances to the "slaves" that he punished thousands of years before.

Oh my, I have to stop writing about this book now.  Expect hi-jinks.  Expect romance.  Expect social commentary and Briticisms.  Expect battle scenes and hospitals. And, if you loved the other books about the Pembertons, expect melancholy.  NOTE: Don't read the acknowledgements until AFTER you read the book.  'Nuff said.  (Where are my tissues?)

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