Mary Norton (J Fantasy)
It is said that there are people who were so frightened, that each generation grew smaller and smaller and became more and more hidden. They’re often found in quiet, old houses that are deep in the country. They became known as the “little people” and one nine-year-old boy actually met some of these people who he came to know as the Clocks: Pod, Homily, and Arrietty. They were real. Absolutely real. He swears by it, but he is just a little boy and quite prone to fantasy and make believe. Or is he?
Buckle up because Mary Norton gives readers plenty of action, adventure, and danger along with some rather devious villains (isn’t Crampfurl just the perfect name for a baddy?) and one unassuming and unsuspecting hero. For underneath the kitchen floor is a world that captures the imagination and delights the senses. A world where matchboxes are dressers, postage stamps are works of art, and blotting paper makes for a rather smart rug. It’s the world of the Borrowers and it’s been captivating readers since its publication in 1952.
It’s easy to see how The Borrowers has become a classic and why Norton followed this book with four successors. Although I liked its themes of family, friendship, and trust, I truly appreciated that Norton didn’t shy away from making her main characters flawed and, at times, unlikeable. Afterall, it was not their discovery by the “human beans” that led to their ultimate downfall, but rather it was their own pride and greed. Albert Einstein once said, “Three great forces rule the world: stupidity, fear, and greed.” Perhaps Homily Clock could have benefitted from these words.
The Borrowers has everything that a young reader would enjoy…except for the ambiguous ending. Just when you think Norton has everything buttoned up, she throws in one final sentence—just four little words—that turns the entire story on its ear. Now, if I had been a reader in 1952 and had just read the last page of this wonderful story, I might be a little miffed at our Mrs. Mary Norton for leaving me high and dry. Thankfully, this isn’t 1952 and I know that not one but FOUR sequels await me, which means that the dear Clocks were not only real, but that they did in fact survive their hopeless fate. But perhaps Norton predicted what her readers’ reaction would be and tried to offer them some bit of solace and hope when she had Mrs. Kay say to young Kate, “…stories never really end. They can go on and on and on. It’s just that sometimes, at a certain point, one stops telling them.” Thankfully, the Clocks’ story does go on and it will continue to go on as long as there are readers who keep telling and sharing it.
* Book cover image attributed to: www.amazon.com