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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Brief book report: Solstice Wood, Inside Job, and Afternoon of the Elves

I have recently read Solstice Wood (New York: Ace Books, 2006) by Patricia A. McKillip. I don't want to give away the plot. This is a reasonably good summary.

The book brings the setting of McKillip's Winter Rose into the present. Characters have cell phones, watch TV, take airplanes, and drive. All this is new territory for McKillip, but she handles it well. Let's just say that the setting of Winter Rose, and of this book, is on the border, or at the interface, of fairyland. She also writes from the viewpoints of a half dozen different characters. Each chapter is from a single viewpoint. I found this an interesting literary device.

McKillip is a good writer. Her settings and characterizations sometimes obscure her plots, but there is a plot in this book. There are real characters in the book. She uses interesting figures of speech, as in "Seven years had done nothing to diminish the force and energy of her voice, which could have cut short a brawl between sea lions." (p. 12. I believe that McKillip lives on the coast of Oregon. The book has no sea, or lions, in it.)

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I also read Janet Taylor Lisle's Afternoon of the Elves (New York: Orchard Books, 1989). I was attracted by the title, and the fact that the book was a Newbery Honor winner. Let's just say that I liked the book, which is supposedly aimed at middle schoolers, but didn't really meet any elves. I wouldn't call it fantastic literature, because it could have been real.

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The Wikipedia article on Connie Willis says that she is a highly honored writer, and no wonder. Her Bellwether and Doomsday Book are splendid, and her other works are also good. Inside Job (Burton, MI: Subterranean Press, 2005) is about debunking spiritism, etc. One of the beliefs being debunked by the main characters is Intelligent Design. Willis doesn't say much about that theory. The title, at least in part, is because the late H. L. Mencken, one of the most diligent debunkers of the past, is being channeled by a medium who is otherwise a charlatan, debunking her to her own audience. Short, and funny, and the guy marries the beautiful and brilliant girl in the end.

Thanks for reading.

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