Monday, March 10, 2008

Over Sea, Under Stone (Book 10/50)

I finished reading Over Sea, Under Stone on Wednesday, nearly a week ago now. I began to write a post, but I never got around to finishing it... now I'll give it another go.

I used my annoying cold as an excuse to neglect my academic studies and do more reading for pleasure. I've finished three books in the past week - which isn't quite as impressive when one realizes that I've done little else but go to class, sleep, eat, and read. (Now I've almost recovered from my cold, but I've still not done much else but eat and sleep).

Today (which was actually several todays ago) I finished Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper. I read this book when I was around 11 years old, but I never read the rest of the Dark Is Rising sequence. When I was young, I frequently got strange notions in my head about reading. Somehow, the thought that the next installment of the series didn't feature the Drew children put me off from reading more. This year, I decided to read the entire series, and where better to start than from the first book?

Over Sea, Under Stone chronicles the quest of the Drew children to find King Arthur's Grail before the enemies of Light get to it first. They are aided by their mysterious Great-Uncle Merry (Gumerry), who hints at but never fully explains the history and importance of the grail. They know only that
... it stands for something, somehow. And that's why Gumerry wants to find it as well. It's like two armies fighting in history. You're never quite sure what they're actually fighting about, but only that one wants to beat the other. (p. 158, Macmillan 1989)
The children were satisfied despite the lack of information. A grail quest is inherently exciting, after all, and since the children instinctively see the line between Light and Dark, they know they are on the "good" side. Perhaps it was the simplicity of the quest, or the children's superficial eagerness, that discouraged me from continuing with the series when I was younger. Then and now, I found it a likable story, but not deeply compelling.

However, I have determined to continue on with the series this time. I'm only a few chapters into The Dark Is Rising, and the atmosphere is already palpably different. The first chapter was so spooky I was afraid to turn my light out at night. The situations are more complicated, and while Light and Dark have not changed in nature from the first book, a murkiness has formed around them. I look forward to venturing deeper into the world that Cooper hinted at in her first book. I'm also beginning to suspect that Over Sea, Under Stone has a deeper subtext that I didn't see on my first reading.

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