Monday, October 22, 2007

Uncle and Mistress Masham's Repose

The Daily Telegraph asked several writers to name their "unsung favourites" amongst children's books. Two of my own favourites are among those named.

Will Self chose Uncle by the Revd J.P. Martin:
Uncle is an elephant of grandiose character. He lives in a ramshackle castle with a couple of sidekicks, one a monkey, the other a lion who can increase his weight at will.

Uncle is really an exercise in materialist excess designed to appeal to the pre-pubescent proto-capitalist. The eponymous hero possesses high-speed lifts, enormous halls, numerous swimming pools etc etc… In the basement there's an oil lake which a mysterious Charon-a-like paddles a boat across.
And Jill Murphy chose Mistress Masham's Repose by T.H. White:

As with C.S. Lewis's stories, you're in awe of the imagination behind it. When I read it as a child I thought it had really happened.

Maria spends her days in a wonderfully dilapidated old country house, alone apart from the cook and her dog, an old professor living in the rambling rounds and her wicked governess Miss Brown, who is scheming with the vicar – Mr Hater – to steal Maria's fortune. Taking refuge from Miss Brown's bullying, Maria stumbles across a colony of Lilliputians (whose forebears escaped from the villainous Biddel of Gulliver's Travels) on a tiny island in the middle of the lake. When her enemies discover her secret, it is the Lilliputians who come to her rescue.

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