Having just completed my reading of “The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy in five parts” (more about that another time, perhaps) I ventured into the garage to find something to read. Searching through my ever diminishing collection of books, I came across a book by an author I haven’t read for a good while… an author that I haven’t read since my ‘Teacher of Year 5’ days – the wonderful (late) Robert Westall.
For the most part, RW’s novels are gently humorous but he did like to decorate his prose with profanities which would make the average primary school pupil’s parent complain. I used his stories where I could and with some judicious editing. I made use of “The Night Mare”, “Blitz”, “The Machine Gunners” and the book I am currently reading – “Christmas Spirit“. It consists of two stories – “The Christmas Ghost” and the marvellous “The Christmas Cat” which evokes such fantastic childhood Christmas memories (of the late 60s and early 70s in my case though the actual story is set in 1934) and memories of summer visitors to our street in the very early 70s. The conflict between Mrs Brindley and Caroline (the narrator of the story) is resolved in a beautifully staged and written manner – I won’t reveal what it is exactly but is it is in the form of a nativity, of sorts. My copy of the book has some wonderfully scratchy pen and ink illustrations (by John Lawrence) which, for me, enhance the story telling far more than high tech, full colour illustrations ever could.
A review at Kirkus
I’d recommend the book as an unusual choice for Christmas-themed narrative(s).
“Outside, the cobbles of the taxi-rank were stuck all over with tiny silver scales, and the air was thick with the smell of fresh fish, frying fish, rotting fish, boiling fish and guano. Seagulls sat on every rooftop, nearly as big and arrogant as geese, and splattered the slates with their white droppings and filled the air with their raucous cries.”