The dedication for this book is special and a little unusual: “This is for all the libraries in the world, and the librarians who sit there day after day lending books to people.” Some librarians might quibble with the concept of sitting day after day but it is the acknowledgement that counts here and one should not lose sight of that. Books are a major character in this novel and all it is missing is a list of books referred to for the reader to make use of as she or he wishes. It is in diary form and extends from May 1st, 1975 to February 20th, 1980. I love the accidental synchronicity that occurred for me i.e. finishing the book on February 20th, 2013. Just might be something in that.
It is the story of Morganna Rachel Phelps Markova and it includes a great deal of reading, some magic, grief over a sister, a physical disability, a divorce between her parents, a loving aunt and two special grandfathers, finding friends and experiencing a first love relationship and even more.
Some of the books read and discussed include those by Ursula Le Guin, Susan Cooper, Thomas Hardy, Dickens, Shakespeare, Anne McCaffrey, Tolkien, Arthur Ransome, Mary Renault, C.S Lewis, Robert Heinlein and many many more.
The setting is Wales which is fascinating for the place names alone. The first sentence for instance, – “The Phurnacite factory in Abercwmboi killed all the trees for two miles around.” How can one not read on? This first entry is five years before the next entry. Here’s how Morganna closes that first entry: “Think of this as a memoir…Fiction’s nice. Fiction lets you select and simplify. This isn’t a nice story, and this isn’t an easy story. But it is a story about fairies, so feel free to think of it as a fairy story. It’s not like you’d believe it anyway.” She sure had my attention with that.
And here is part of the closing paragraph: “It’s my intention to carry on being alive in the world, well, until I die. At Easter I’ll go to Glasgow and see what science fiction fandom is like. Next June I’ll take my exams and pass them, and have qualifications. Then I’ll do A Levels, as it best works out. I’ll go to university. I’ll live, and read, and have friends, a karass (circle), people to talk to. I’ll grow and change and be myself. I’ll belong to libraries wherever I go. Maybe eventually I’ll belong to libraries on other planets…I’ll be reading my book.”
Jo Walton is a native of Wales. She lives in Montreal.