June 08, 2005

Summer Reads: Sorcery, Correspondence, and 19th century England

Bon jour!

I'm supposed to be reading books of short stories, in preparation for my potentially good idea to hoodwink a few friends into writing a book of YA short stories while we're at the
SCBWI L.A. Conference this summer. Of course, it being JUNE, it's also supposed to be almost summer, and it's raining. So, I'm to be excused for my lapse back into novels -- and definitely I'm to be excused because my novel finds this week have been such a kick!

One of the best things about the Harry Potter hysteria, in its heyday, anyway (which certainly isn't now -- enough with the disposable characters already, J.K.!), was that it made a lot of publishers go racing back to their slush piles and give a lot of good fantasy a second look.
Sorcery and Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot: Being the Correspondence of Two Young Ladies of Quality Regarding Various Magical Scandals in London and the Country was one such novel. First published in 1988, this lengthily titled novel was reprinted in 2003 to much greater acclaim.

Think Jane Austen on pixie dust, and you've just about got the gist of this unique story. Amusing on so many levels, this book was the mastermind of two authors, Caroline Stevemer and Patricia C. Wrede, based on a game played in childhood. Apparently, during summer break, friends would write letters to each other based on assumed storylines, and become duchesses, movie stars, etc., and have 'adventures.' Caroline and Patricia set their adventure in 1817, and came up with a remarkable book.

This is a great mental frolic. There's danger - from nasty wizards and overbearing aunts. There's mistaken identities, curfew breaking, misunderstandings and midnight waltzes. Paced sedately, with descriptions of clothes and carriages, and laced with subtle jabs at English manners (so very Austen), this was really a surprising and enjoyable find. Better still, there's a sequel!

Though I have yet to read it, it is hoped that
The Grand Tour : Being a Revelation of Matters of High Confidentiality and Greatest Importance, Including Extracts from the Intimate Diary of a Noblewoman and the Sworn Testimony of a Lady of Quality is as funny and elegant as its predecessor.

Now, lie back with a cup o' tea, luv, and think of England.

1 comment:

tanita s. davis said...

Urk.
Well, I can say this for the sequel: It's actually more true-to-life than one could expect; Victorian married life was incredibly dull... As was this novel. Wrede and Stevermer made the mistake the writers of Nancy Drew mysteries did not: just because there are now guys in the novel, shouldn't mean that there are no more interesting bits for the girls. Pfft.