Sunday, July 09, 2006

Forever X - Geraldine McCaughrean

Geraldine McCaughrean's Forever X features the Shepherd family: mother and father, the pre-teen Joy and her 4 year old brother, Mel. They set off on their annual summer holiday to a caravan twenty miles from the sea, where they always spend their 2 week holiday. The predictability of it all causes them all gloom so when the car breaks down, they find themselves forced out of their routine into staying for the night at the nearest B&B. To their astonishment they find themselves at a place where Christmas comes every day of the year, complete with turkey, presents and Santa Claus. What's even stranger is the girl in the elf costume, the mysterious Mr Angel, and the police who are seeking an escaped criminal. Stranded in this bizarre environment, the children develop unusual friendships and the family relationships which have been so set in their ways are turned upside down.

There are some examples of really beautiful writing in McCaughrean's book (as there so often is in her novels):

There was no garage within sight, no telephone, no roadsides houses, nothing - only a long purple valley and a lake scrawled on, like pale blue paper, by whole sentences of ducks, punctuated by moorhens and exclamations of sunlight. (p. 2)
The willow tree gushed out of the ground like a fountain, creating a shimmering dome of green and fractured sunlight which cascaded almost to the ground. (p. 38)
It seemed to Mel then as is if all his unshed tears were suddenly falling on the ground around him: big dark explosions of wet kicking up the dust. Abruptly, the rain emptied itself over his head like the contents of a bucket. (p. 70)
The little boy had mistaken him for an angel, and that, in the vacant reeling of Angel's rain-soaked head, burdened him with the responsibilities of an angel. [...] Never had his name weighed so heavy on Mr Angel's shoulders: heavy as a pair of rain-sodden wings. (p. 82)
The book also raises an interesting philosophical question - Joy wonders:
Was it the date - 25th December - which constituted Christmas, or was it what people did by consensus on 25th December which made 25th December Christmas ? That is to say, was 25th December still Christmas on uninhabited islands, even with no one to observe it? Or could August 12th just as well be Christmas if, by public accord, the world agreed to have it then? Was it all in the anticipation perhaps? (p. 10)
Joy, it appears, has never been told that Christians took over the date of the Winter Festival from the pagans, making it into the date on which Christ's birth is celebrated since no one knows on exactly what date Christ was born (assuming Christ to be a real historical figure, and not a religious myth). Therefore Christmas could just as easily be celebrated on August 12th as December 25th.

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There's a spoilerish review of this book over on the Scholar's Blog Spoiler Zone.

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