Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Giant Under the Snow - John Gordon

I first found out about John Gordon's The Giant Under the Snow in an article from the Guardian newspaper back in April, in which Michelle Paver waxed lyrical about it. I asked the library whether they would be getting a copy - and one was duly purchased in May - but no one told me, and I only found it lurking on the shelves the week before last, at which point I pounced on it !

On a school field trip, Jonquil (known to everyone as Jonk) Winters, an independent-minded teenage girl, is attacked by a large black dog whilst exploring the nearby woods where she has found a mysterious and rather old buckle. She is rescued from the dog by a woman named Elizabeth Goodenough, who possesses some magical powers. After she goes home, Jonk is stalked by the dog and its curious stone-faced master. Jonk's friend, Bill has read of a local legend that describes how a Green Man once strode across the countryside from Wiltshire to East Anglia. Believing the legend is the key to understanding Jonk's experience in the woods, Jonk, Bill and their rather sceptical friend Arf set out to solve the riddle of the Green Man, finding themselves under attack from the minions of the stone-faced man, the rather horrible "leather men", being followed by the black dog and being given the gift of flight by Elizabeth.

This is a tense, thrilling, and fast-paced story that is almost impossible to put down. I was reminded of both Alan Garner and Charles Butler's books whilst reading this book, so if you enjoy either of them, you'll probably enjoy this too. I've already made a list of other books by Gordon that are held by the library and intend to raid their shelves in the not-too-distant future (once my library pile has gone down at least a little more !)


Catherine Uible Morgan said...

Michele, thanks for this recommendation! From the beginning, a school field trip to the countryside where Jonquil "Jonk" Winters is separated from the group by feelings of alienation and insecurity, the tone of this book is suspenseful with evil and malevolence lurking nearby. I liked the trio of characters, Jonk, sceptical Arthur "Arf" and Bill who helps keep them together as a team. Elizabeth Goodenough is a mysterious and timeless woman they meet in the woods who protects them from the evil dog and the dangerous leathermen, tells them the legend, and enlists their help in preventing the warlord from acquiring the belt and the Celtic buckle. Greatest change in Jonk, from an anti-social alienated school girl to the leader of the trio in solving the mystery of the green man, the buckle, and the legend. Perfectly spooky weather adds to the suspense. One of the scariest scene is in the safety of Jonk's home when she goes upstairs to retrieve the buckle and sees somebody leaning over the banisters (p.101) which turns out only to be a coat. Sometimes it is the familiar that is most frightening.

Questions: Why is Elizabeth always depicted wearing high heels?

I've requested the sequel, Ride the Wind, via inter-library loan!

Michele said...

I'm glad that you enjoyed it.

Questions: Why is Elizabeth always depicted wearing high heels?

Not a clue ! I guess some women just always wear high heels - personally I never do but I know women who do. Perhaps it's symbolic of her sexuality or womanhood ?

Catherine Uible Morgan said...

I had another thought on her shoes, which for some reason are sticking in my mind. Perhaps they are symbolic of her not being based in reality but being part of the legend/myth itself. Because of her "magic" she does not need practical shoes to wear the inclement weather.

The ILL department at my library says the sequel is not available at any library in the US. Have you heard any rumors about it being reissued also?

Michele said...

I've heard nothing at all about the sequel, I'm afraid...

You could be right about Elizabeth's shoes !