Buff Coats and Green Vales

At the risk of totally hexing herself, Jenny would like to say...she's back! She is in the typing swing again, trucking away on Between Earth and Sky like nobody's business.

Yeah, several jinxes just rang the doorbell, wanting to be let in for tea. I suppose they can at least fold the laundry while they are here.

After NaNo (which is like saying "after the war..."), I was bushed. I was creatively wrung out. I was a limp noodle with no alfredo sauce. My proverbial muses had taken a trip to the Lake District and left me behind. Throughout December I told myself that, after the strain of the previous month, this was understandable. I needed to rest my little grey cells a bit. Come January, I would be right as rain.

Jenny isn't the best weather forecaster in the world. Come January 1st, she sat down like a good girl, opened her document, took a deep breath...and wrote a sentence. Then she tugged and pleaded and hammered and cajoled her imagination, and wrote another sentence. The war wasn't over. It was grueling! Much of January consisted of no writing and lots of guilt-trips. February, which had been intended as a sort of miniature NaNo, flared, sputtered, and died an obscure and lonesome death.

And then, one day, she sat down at her computer with Abigail scribbling in a notebook beside her, and she started typing. She typed and typed, and kept typing, and it was something glorious. The words just flowed. In the midst of a stretch of perfectly spring-time days, warm and sunshiny, Between Earth and Sky obligingly blossomed for me. I have, so far as I am aware, successfully introduced all the pivotal characters of the plot and made Anna good-naturedly furious that I left her hanging and haven't written even more. You can't please everybody.

Well, that's what I've been writing. As for what I have been reading, I managed to finally get my hands on a lovely little red hard-bound copy of Rosemary Sutcliff's Simon, a small novel about the English Civil War. Something Jenny does not usually tell people is that, when she was a child, her favourite imaginary friend was Oliver Cromwell. She could tell you, though she does not care to, about the adventures she and Noll and Dick had in the countryside of Cambridgeshire, and about London (which she never liked), and all sorts of wild and ridiculous things that a child can come up with which are at once magical and implausible. While she is now too old to carry on imaginary games, and the Civil War is rather too fixed in history to be tampered with, the spirit of her best childhood friend lives on in another of her characters, and the adventures continue.

"But why on earth...?"

I can't answer that. As dorky and as boring as it sounds, even a brief and passing mention of the English Civil War makes my heart skip a beat and my mind rush away to Harry falling in the fens and nearly drowning before we could fish him out again. So you can imagine my thrill when I finally acquired a copy of Sutcliff's little book, which is hard to find and not exactly inexpensive. I devoured it. Simon, blunt, kind-hearted, Devonshire Simon whisked my heart away; and Amias, who is very like her later Flavius with his wild red hair, mocking laughter and taste for adventure: those two seemed to embody the spirit of the war in a way only Sutcliff could pull off. I am sure that, if you really didn't care, the story would seem odd, a rush of several years' worth of action whirling by, touched on only briefly. Maybe that is why it is so hard to find, and so unheard-of. For myself, it was a different story. I knew these names and faces, these happenstances, and watching my favourite author bring some of my favourite people to life was splendid. Never did a cavalry charge grow boring, never did a siege grow dull. At the heart of it was always Parliamentary Simon and his heart-felt friendship with his Royalist best friend. I laughed, I cried, I held my breath at the moment Simon swung round to find none other than Old Noll himself standing by to talk with him in his gruff, familiar farmer's voice. Fiery Tom Fairfax, with whom I had never been well acquainted, was a shining light at the head of the story Simon followed; and, underneath it all, Simon's family and farm waiting for him to come back to them: an emotional touch with all the marks of Sutcliff's deftness upon it.

Thank you, Sutcliff. This is a treasure.

[the sketch isn't by me, it's by someone else of someone else's character, but i borrowed him to embody the Parliamentary Forces. thanks!]

3 ripostes:

  1. Oh, huzzah! I was afraid when I picked up the book and peered at the first page that Amias was going to turn out to be a jerk. He is a bit of a prig in that first bit. "I can spit farther than you...!"

    Well, I'm tottering along on The White Sail's Shaking, shooting monkeys, la dee da... Next Friday we can have another (non) write-a-thon.

  2. Ah, Amias is just That Way. He's really nice at heart, once things get ironed out. A prig, but a really nice prig.

    Here's hoping I don't peter out by next Friday.

  3. You, my dear, will be the literary-death of me. Not only do you write books, and good books, and throw snatchets of them which only further impress on me the absolute necessity of reading those books - but you read books, and good books, and compel me to want to read them almost as much as I want to read your own. So all I can do is throw my hands into the air and count myself very fortunate to have such a friend as you, who not only finds good books but /makes/ them. I wuv you! ^.^