Stubborn reading (was Re: YA/Children's/Adult Books)

minnow at minnow at
Thu May 1 18:28:21 EDT 2003

Robyn wrote about Antonia Forest's Ready-Made Family

>I agree that it is an excellent book. Sadly, it is out of print and very
>rare. Forest has a cult readership, and copies are highly coveted. I think
>among its excellences are the family's reaction to the new in-laws,
>particularly around the riding-crop incident. A lot of books make the
>assumption that it is right and proper to hate your step relations, or
>relations by marriage. RMF does a good job of showing the "get along for
>the sake of everyone's peace" attitude. We had some fairly heated arguments
>about Peter and Edwin.

Antonia Forest is another of the Splendid authors whose people are not
remotely "stock".  She's even had the guts to write a pair of identical
twins who are completely different from each other in all their behaviour
and ways of thinking rather than being some sort of clone-types.

When I was younger I used to draw a distinction between authors who wrote
"types" (Dickens being an exception because he wrote archetypes, was the
conclusion I came to at one point) and those who wrote "people".  DWJ and
Antonia Forest are very much "people" authors.  I was always on the lookout
for more "people-writers".  Rosemary Sutcliff and Rudyard Kipling were the
first two I noticed; and I think that one of the reasons I didn't get on
with Enid Blyton was that I never really felt that the characters in her
books had that spark of reality to them, I felt that if I met them they
wouldn't be real people.  (This is very difficult to express, but I hope
that more or less makes sense.)

Maybe it's a distinction between character-driven and plot-driven books?
Anyone?  If one loves one sort, is one going to un-love the other, as it
were, or are both of similar levels of delight, just in different ways?
Obviously if the plot stinks then the best characters in the world won't
rescue the book, and vice versa, but would anyone else feel that DWJ's work
for instance would fall apart if the people weren't "real", no matter that
her plots worked?


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