Saturday, 6 July 2013

Lud-In-The-Mist - Hope Mirrlees

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Well, well!  I am not even sure how I heard about this one,  but it took my imagination enough to buy a new copy..... rare for me these days.  Neil Gaiman fans may like to know that Neil Gaiman thinks this is "....a little golden miracle of a book".  It is a fantasy, but unlike any fantasy novel written in the last 50 years.  It put me in mind of The Lumpton Goblings, which I retain on my shelves and will now have to re-read;  and the style of writing reminded my of the late Elizabeth Goudge (Little White Horse, Carnagie medal winner 1946).  First published in 1926, republished in the 1960s and still around.

Lud-In-The-Mist is a small, self-important harbour town in the country of Dorimare, whose inhabitants are referred to as Ludites..... The Mayor of Lud (and therefore the most important person in the country) is one Nathaniel Chantacleer, he too is self-important and moves socially within a group of town worthies and burgers who know each other well, tell the same old jokes, swear the same old curses - and life goes on as it has for many years, with the town worthies studiously not mentioning fairies - and there lies the problem!  For they do exist, somewhere over the hills to the west;  and when the also unmentioned fairy fruit is eaten by certain members of the population, and Nathaniel's son is packed off to a lonely farm for safety things start to go badly wrong for those worthy burgers.

As I started to read this, I was taken into Lud-In-The-Mist immediately, I understood the town, it's worthies, the fear of faerie and therefore the studied ignorance of it; and was enchanted - which is as it should be!  Each of the major characters has their own flaws, a few of them are worryingly dislikeable and we find out why as we read on; an unlikely hero emerges and it's altogether a lovely fairy story for grown-ups.