Monday, July 1, 2013

The Borrowers Afield by Mary Norton (1955)

The Borrowers are sort of odd to begin with, and The Borrowers Afield is odder still.  I think what attracted me to the Borrowers as a child was their size; when you are little, your whole job in life is to be told what to do, when to do it, where to do it, and how to do it.  The Borrowers are little people who live in (relatively) familiar setting, and get away with pulling the wool over adults' eyes, and occasionally throwing the wool right into their eyes.  But the tone is also really dark, and the to me at least, the characters are really unlikable.  The Borrowers Afield is quite a lot about complaining (mostly Homily) and other people carping about the complaining (mostly Pod).  The whole book feels very in-between.  Pod may say that they are going to be living in the boot in the bush forever, and Arrietty may secretly wish that was true, but you the reader, who know there are other books in this series, know this is probably not true.  Really, NOTHING seems to ever happen to them that's exciting.  When I was ten or so, my aunt and uncle gave me a box of books that belonged to my much older cousin, and one of the books was a novelized version of the old television series Land of the Giants.  Quite frankly, the book was sort of stupid and boring (as fictionalized version of movies and television almost always are), but at least things happened to the little people - insects and lizards tried to eat them ALL THE TIME.  The Food of the Gods had giants animals - rats and wasps - who tried to eat people too.  Barely anything tries to eat the Clocks - a crow, a snake at some point slithers by.  At least the Littles had adventures.  The Borrowers just sit around and complain all the time about how their place in society has fallen.  At it's heart, the Borrowers are a Victorian comedy of manners.  That does give the Borrowers a different spin, although the three of them are still really, really sort of unpleasant.

The Borrowers Afield (The Borrowers #2)The Borrowers Afield by Mary Norton
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I think the Borrowers series, at its heart, is dark and grim, and The Borrowers Afield is mostly about Homily complaining about their fall from (social?) grace.  It's almost a Victorian comedy of manners, minus servants.  The three Clocks aren't really all that likable as characters either; Homily complains too much and is a classicist snob, Pod is a chauvinist at the best of times and ineffectual at the worst of times, and there is something sly about Arrietty (she got them into this mess in the first place, which to give her parents some credit, they don't really bring up very much). Her curiosity is supposed to be admirable, but she also has a streak of independence that quite frankly should have had her eaten by a cat or a stoat long ago.   The book ends with her flirting with the new human boy, and that can certainly lead to no good.

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