Books Read in January

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Angel Death, by Patrician Moyes, a Henry Tibbet mystery.  I am generally mildly fond of these, but this one is not in the top 20 list of her books I like. For perspective, I believe she only wrote 19 of the Tibbet books.

Above Suspicion, Helen MacInnes, this is her first, published in 1941, set in Germany just before the invasion of Poland.  It’s *very* anti Germany, understandably given the time frame, and it’s also a really good read. Really, really good. If you’re hitting WW2 in your history studies, I’d add this to your free reads at the same time.

Just David– I kind of liked this and I kind of didn’t. IT’s hard to explain. It’s by the author of Pollyanna, and there’s a lot that is sweet and admirable. But there’s a lot that I find deeply disturbing, and that stuff is a bit more subtle , so it’s harder not to absorb it, especially for young readers. Also, I find the father’s judgement horrifyingly irrational, and his decisions are irresponsible. In real life a child brought up like David would be a deeply traumatized youngster. You’ve also got the old hereditary determinism which would grow up shortly thereafter to become fullblown eugenics. You’ve got a strange notion of a Christianity completely without Christ, and what bothers me most about this one is how it seems to have just gone right over the heads of a good many Christian readers I respect. We have a completely unrealistic view of the child nature. Also, there are notions I find incompatible with reality, such as the harshly critical attitude toward hunting even for food, because the animals wouldn’t want to be dead-
particularly since it doesn’t really seem like the boy or his father are actually vegans.

The father has taught him a charming notion about life as an orchestra where everybody has a part to play and if you don’t do your part you make the orchestra out of tune. I did like that theme very much. However, he never conveys to the child that many people *want* to be out of tune, and sometimes we are in that discordant group who choose discordancy out of our own selfishness, because that not be in keeping with his (and the author’s?) notions of children as essentially perfect and unspoiled by any selfish tendencies of their own they might just have naturally.

In the beginning of the book we have young David being raised by his father alone in a mountain cabin with no contact with the outside world except the occasional necessary meeting witha delivery boy or a village worker they have to meet. He never is allowed to have any real conversations with anybody but his father. He is never permitted to know that death exists, he doesn’t even know what it is, nor does has he heard of much of anything unpleasant, including sin or the redemptive work of Christ, or Christ period- I harp on this because this is a book often promoted as a Christian book, but he religion in it is more akin to something like Buddhism.

By choice the boy’s father has left the ‘civilized world’ and determined to bring the boy up with no exposure to anything but goodness (as determined by the father) or anything unpleasant at all. Music is the center of their lives and both father and son are gifted violinists. The father falls ill and they hastily pack everything up and head down the mountain to return to society, but while far frmo their cabin but still in a small hamlet much out of the minstream, the father collapses and dies and leaves this poor child alone and totally ignorant of the ways of the world. He does not even know his own surname, so nobody can look for relatives. His dad does manage to hastily hand over a large amount of gold coins he tells the boy to hide on his person (never mind the sheer weight of that amount of solid gold), and then he’s gone.
It’s sheer luck that anybody takes the boy in at all instead of shipping him off to an orphanage, and tht his gold doesn’t get found and stolen, or any number of other things likely to befall such a naive child left on his own who doesn’t know his own name, but then again, everything that happens is to the boy’s benefit and it’s all sheer luck and, of course, like Pollyanna, everybody eventually falls in love with him and finds him irresistable. He is a darling character, regardless of how unrealistic he is. The people he meets are interesting and have interesting backstories of their own. I don’t hate it, I just… find it frustrating.

 

Bark of the Bog Owl– this is the first in a trilogy, and the only one I’ve read. It’s an interesting reclothing of the DAvid story in the Bible, only it’s set here in a fictional kingdom more like Wales and Scotland. I found it an enjoyable read, and I expect kids of around 11-14 or so would like it, too, probably even younger, especially as a read aloud. The correlation between the Kind David story and this one is not heavy handed, but if you know the David story it is soon obvious (I hadn’t realized this when I started). I would like to read the next two. My favourite part is the Feechie people, and I understand there’s more of them in the second book.

Omnilingual: a fun H. B. Piper short story about a race against time as space archeologists are trying to find the key they need to decode an ancient Martian language before the imminent destruction of the long abandoned city. It’s pretty cool. Your teens should read it.

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