Sunday, January 27, 2008

Daring escapes!!! Captures!!!

Right now I am reading The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by G.W. Dahlquist. It is a rollicking read. I can think of no other way to describe it. From the very first of the 700-odd pages you are plunged into the story. The heroine is dumped unceremoniously by her fiance for no apparent reason. She follows him to find out the real reason for his sudden change of heart, and almost immediately there is a mystery night train, a masked ball, sinister characters with clearly evil intentions, foreign agents, a cabal, a hired killer, a kind-hearted but slightly clueless doctor, beautiful, cruel, unscrupulous women, foreign royalty, alchemy, mysterious soul-sucking and dangerous sciences, strange and dangerous machinery, coincidence piled upon coincidence, naughty bits, and a roller coaster of capture!!! Daring escape!! Capture!!! Daring escape!!! Capture!!! Daring escape!!! for all three of the main characters. And a dirigible, even! (I love it that there is a dirigible, complete with man hanging off it by a rope.)

In fact I haven't come across so many captures!!! and daring escapes!!! since my childhood immersions into Enid Blyton. This book is like an x-rated Famous Five, except there are three protagonists, not five, and (so far at least) no dog.

I am having a FABULOUS time, reading it.

One of the reviewers on Amazon, I just noticed, complained about the excruciating detail in which Miss Temple is described having afternoon tea in one scene. I read that scene a couple of days ago, and my response to it was entirely different. I read it and then had to put the book down for a moment, because while I was reading a great big belly laugh rolled up from my stomach and I got tears in my eyes. I just couldn't help it. I had to stick the bookmark in the page, close the book, lean back in my chair, and laugh and laugh and laugh. And then laugh some more. I don't know quite why this scene tickled my funny bone so much, but it did.

Perhaps it was the sudden and surprising change of activity. The heroine is deliberately hurtling into a dangerous confrontation with the bad guys, and she is imagining what she will do, and you're all geared up for the confrontation – but the bad guys aren't there and she has to wait for them, so she stops to have a cup of tea. The compulsively detailed ordering and drinking of tea is almost painful, and is, basically, exquisitely described displacement activity. I found myself reading faster and worrying that she would miss the bad guys coming through the door while she was obsessing over exactly where the tea strainer was placed, and also understanding COMPLETELY why she was taking so much care over cutting her scones exactly in half and not having one half thicker than the other.

That was the most perfect description of an afternoon tea ritual that I have ever read, and the funniest. But it is much funnier in context than it would be if you read it alone. The situation is everything.

I am now up to page 527 (of 750-odd) and there have been another couple of daring escapes!!! and captures!!! since I started writing this, and it is all becoming, if I actually think about it seriously, rather off-the-wall ludicrous. But when I am reading it is not ludicrous at all. It all makes perfect sense, and is the most wonderful escapist nonsense I have read in years. From the first page I have felt like I'm being hurled forwards into the plot. It just never stops, so that whenever I pick up the book I wonder if I should be wearing a seat belt.

There are also some rather more serious themes underlying the daring escapes!!! and captures!!! (not to mention the naughty bits), but never mind those. I'll think about them later. Any moment now, I'm fairly sure, there is going to be another daring escape!!! and I have to read on to find out how it will happen this time.


kenju said...

I read this last year, and I found it laborious and ludicrous too. The naughty bits were good fun and I found myself wanting more of them....LOL

Paula said...

The title alone intrigues me!

BTW, I see you have a link to TextTwist. I'm so addicted to that game.

Cheryl said...


I DO so love a ripping yarn.