Friday, January 3, 2014

The Box of Delights by John Masefield (1935)

The Box of Delights is beautifully written, I'll give you that.  It has some poetic language.    But half the time, I wasn't sure what the hell was going on.  A magical box, time travel, gangsters, fairies, witches, a flying car, a nanny - everything but the kitchen sink.  Lots of 1930s English school boy slang as well - "I say" and "scrobbled."

What I kept thinking - there is modern fantasy that has its origins in this book.  Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising kept coming to mind; "the wolves are running" has the same scan and feel to it, both books are set at Christmas, have mysterious figures.  The Dark is Rising is a superior book - Masefield (to me at least) didn't seem to know where to take this, and unlike modern fantasy, didn't have predecessors to fall back on to guide him.

I finally skimmed the last fourth of the book - I'm ready to move on to something else.

The Box of Delights (New York Review Children's Collection)The Box of Delights by John Masefield
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Beautifully written, poetic language - but what a confusing, kitchen sink plot.  A magic box, gangsters, time travel, a flying car, fairies, talking animals, witches, a nanny... the list goes on and on.  I enjoyed the feel of the book, and I enjoyed how the book reminded me of other books (The Dark is Rising most of all; it's obvious this book was part of Susan Cooper's writer's pysche; apparently it's one of C.S. Lewis's favorites as well); but in the end, it's not going to be a favorite of mine.  Interesting, to say the least.

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