January reading and February reading plans

January isn’t really over yet but I think I can already conclude that it has been a good reading month. I’m hoping to read books by authors from 30 countries this year, and wanted my January reads to give me a good start. I have certainly succeeded in that, the authors of the 16 books I have read so far were born in 12(!) different countries. I know that it will be harder from now on, but it should be doable.

Memorable first time reads

  • Blomsterdalen by Niviaq Korneliussen (Greenland/Denmark)
  • My garden by Jamaica Kincaid (Antigua and Barbuda)
  • Gubbas hage by Kerstin Ekman (Sweden)

Prince Caspian

January was also the time to read the second book in the Narniathon, Prince Caspian. I remember liking Prince Caspian as a child but it was never one of my Narnia favourites. Nevertheless I must have read it many times because almost all plot points were still clear to my memory as I reread it.

Reading it again as an adult I still love the beginning where the Pevensie children return to Narnia. Their rediscovery of Narnia, and Caspian’s discovery of “old” Narnia, are some of the real highlights of this book. I’m less enchanted by the second half of the book. In the first half of the book all plot threads are gradually coming together, but then they seem to disperse again and I feel that the story loses direction a bit. I’m also a bit distracted by some of the human activities that feel out of place in Narnia (schools etc.). What I do like in this book is how much more competent the Pevensie children are. I never liked Edmund’s role in the first book, although I can see that it was necessary for the plot, but in this installment both he and Susan have nicer roles. As I’m strongly in favour of competent main characters, this is a pleasant change. All in all I stand by my childhood assessment that this is a good installment in the chronicles of Narnia, but not one of the very best ones.

February plans

February is the ReadIndies month, which I’m really looking forward to. I have a good selection of possible reads on my TBR shelf (see below), and I might easily end up buying more along the way.

Books by independent publishers on my TBR shelf.

The lion, the witch and the wardrobe

Few books have meant more to me than the chronicles of Narnia. As a child I read them over and over, and even, after I had collected them all in Swedish, collected Narnia books in other languages as souvenirs. It is thus fair to say that I know the stories rather well, but I must admit that it have been a long time since I reread them. Calmgrove’s Narniathon seemed like a good time to do something about that and I have therefore revisited The lion, the witch and the wardrobe.

Most of the time when I reread a book I have at least partially forgotten the plot, but not this time. Every scene, almost every word, was familiar, but despite this I still enjoyed it. Sure, there are things I could complain about, the children all feel fairly flat and unconvincing, the narrator sometimes starts lecturing, but none of that really matters. What do I care about the Pevensie children? When I read a Narnia book, I am always the child that travels to Narnia. That C. S. Lewis created a world I could almost believe I could travel to has always been what I loved most about the Narnia books.

Apart from his excellent abilities for setting a scene I believe that there are three things in particular that makes my immersion in Narnia possible, Firstly, Narnia is a portal world, making it entirely plausible that I could travel to Narnia, unlike most Fantasy lands. Secondly, The chronicles of Narnia contain something that the author truly believed in. A story with a moral is often worse for it, but I have often found that the stories with something true (or believed to be true) at their core are the ones with lasting power. The chronicles of Narnia and my other children’s Fantasy favourite, The Brothers Lionheart, although very unalike, both have this is common. Thirdly, Narnia is created by an author who appears to believe in it. Perhaps not in a literal sense, but because Lewis wrote it with a strong Christian centre (which I completely missed as a child), he took it seriously. Other portal worlds, such as Oz or Wonderland, are written by authors who don’t take them seriously, they are interesting and fun, but I never found them believable in the way that I do believe in Narnia.

All in all I found my return to Narnia to be interesting and enjoyable. I had hoped to discover more new things in it, but I have read it so many times, and also reread it as an adult, although a long time ago, that it all felt familiar.

What I did discover this time was that the illustrations, although lovely, were not particularly accurate. The Narnian reindeer in particular seemed to have little in common with the reindeer I am familiar with.