The Story Spilling Over

Thu 14 Sep 2017 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , | Leave a Comment | Posted by: Gavin

The River Bank cover - click to view full sizeOccasionally I read a review of a book we’ve published and it makes me want to pick up the book and read it all over again. I just had that experience reading Amal El-Mohtar’s review of The River Bank on the NPR website. Amal begins her review writing about fan fiction and reading that made me wonder if fan fiction was labelled something else, would it be more acceptable to those who don’t like it? Much of the time fan fiction can pass me by but then Kij sent us a book that Amal accurately labels fan fiction and I love it. I love a book in conversation with another but sometimes, ach, you know how it is. There’s no one rule that describes even one reader’s preferences. I know a good book when I see it! Right? Sure.

Enough of me, here’s a part of Amal’s review. I urge you to read the whole thing:

I was never less than delighted with this book. From beginning to end, it thoroughly charmed and engaged me, speaking the native literary language of my childhood. Like a river, it is in places languid and broad, in others narrow and rushing, the story spilling over sharp rocks of incident before pooling in afternoon sunshine, smelling of lilies and mud. I loved the sweetness of its pace, which spoke of a deep, abiding love not so much for the source material’s specific contents as their tone: a wistful, enchanted melancholy that walks hand in hand with summer’s end.

There are passages here that I treasure, that take up the timbre of Kenneth Grahame’s voice to speak of new things that feel timeless: the joys and pains of being an author at work; the changeability of a summer’s day from possibility to exhaustion; the quiet loneliness of a home half-dwelt in, a home asleep until woken by occupation, activity, presence. Sentences like “an animal lives in the long now of the world.” So much of this book dwells deeply in that long now.

In addition to its many native felicities, the text is embellished by Kathleen Jennings’ beautiful incidental illustrations, grace notes sounded in E. H. Shepard’s mode with a line reminiscent of Beatrix Potter and a sensibility all Jennings’ own.


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