Among Others by Jo Walton

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.Among Others
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.

Summary of Dickens’ Little Dorrit Read-along Experience

The Dickens’ read-along with my friend extended from November 2012 to almost the end of February 2013. Reading more or less Issue by Issue as they were published gave a different flavour to the experience as it kept one always conscious of what it might have been like to be following this story as it was published: a little like following Downton Abbey on a weekly basis on PBS. For anyone who likes notes for a Dickens’ read and is considering Little Dorrit do check out the posts back in the archives and see if they are helpful to you.

I became  most aware of the techniques Dickens’ employed to ensure sufficient interest in buying the next issue.It was also interesting that in the last issue he hurriedly tied everything up as neatly and as quickly as possible because there as no need for any further suspense.

It seems clear looking back that it was not about wealth or happiness or marriage for these are far less interesting than poverty and squalor, unhappiness and maltreatment, failure or lonliness. The marriage of Arthur and Amy is anti-climactic and I, for one, felt a little let down for some reason or other. They “went down into a modest life of usefulness and happiness…to give a mother’s care …to Fanny’s neglected children no less than their own..and to give a tender nurse and friend to Tip for some few years.” Doyce is totally reconciled with Arthur, Pet is at home with her mother, Amy shakes John Chivery’s hand, Mr. Pancks has become chief clerk to Doyce and Clennam and has Flora on one arm and Maggy on the other as the happy couple signed the register.

Was anything  not resolved to your satisfaction?

In his introduction to my Modern Library edition of Little Dorrit, David Gates writes that after 1850, Dickens’ novels “tended to be more elaborately constructed and harsher and less buoyant in tone than his earlier works”. These late novels include Bleak House (1853), Hard Times (1854), Little Dorrit (1857), A Tale of Two Cities (1859), and Great Expectations (1861).

I have not read Bleak House and am considering it as my next Dickens read. Or a reread of A Tale of Two Cities? Or Edwin Drood? hmmmm   Or perhaps it is time to read one of the novels written prior to 1850 and see if Gates’ observations hold true?

Well, first I will watch the BBC video version of Little Dorrit with Matthew McFadyen, Claire Foy, Tom Courtney as William Dorrit, Alun Armstrong as Flintwinch, Eddy Marsan as Pancks, Amanda Redman as Mrs. Merdle and James Fleet as Frederick Dorrit.  Anyone seen this?