A spoonful of sugar

It's been a slow start for The Blind Assassin. Judging from the first 30 or so pages, it's going to reveal its plot and characters slowly over time; at the moment all I have are fragments which I can only vaguely piece together. I hope this isn't the sort of book that should come with a notebook to record names and dates and places...

Another reason for the slow start is Neil Gaiman, and more specifically the copy of The Graveyard Book that I borrowed from a friend. I'm about half-way through, and enjoying it immensely on two levels: it's a bloody good book for children that assumes they're smart, and I've also found a new way to enjoy reading to my beloved.

On the first point, I like books for kids which just get on with it. (Truth be told, I like this about books in general, unless there's a particular point - artistic or otherwise - to be made by doing things otherwise.) Too many modern books for chlidren and young adults hold the reader's hand, explaining everything as though the reader will be too dim to work things out from context. Skullduggery Pleasant, though fun, had this problem: it's explanation of its world was a little too "here's how everything works" for me. I recently had a conversation with about older children's books, and how they treated kids with respect for their intelligence. A. A. Milne was a major example, and I was delighted to learn (for though I did read some of them, it was probably 25 years ago and I've forgotten) that Beatrix Potter used words like "soporific" in her stories, without explanation, but with the meaning clear in context. That's how you build a vocabulary!

The new reading method isn't anything spectacular. I was recently scandalised by the revelation that my sleepy beloved falls asleep while I'm reading to her, and has no recollection of large bits of the books I've read to her (the mainstays of which are Gideon Defoe's Pirates! books, which are hilarious). After our first stint with The Graveyard Book, she revealed how little she remembered, and asked me to summarise what she'd missed. After the second stint, I kept reading by myself after I realised she was asleep, and have kept up the updates each morning.

We both enjoy my little retelling of the story, which is also a good way to keep it in my head between reads, and I think the best part is she'll probably want to read the whole book for herself later. Certainly it'd make a pleasant antidote to Brideshead Revisited, which she's slogging through at the moment, and finding awful. I've not read it myself, but it's tale of privileged, chaste but nonetheless deeply depressed young men sounds dreadful...

1 comment:

  1. Brideshead is indeed awful, but don't judge Waugh solely on that. Read "The Loved One"--it's fantastic.