Archive for November 19th, 2011

November 19, 2011

Falconer’s Lure (AF3)

(Part of my readthrough of Antonia Forest’s Marlow series)


Of all the Marlow books this is the one I feel least acquainted with. This is because while I was allowed to take the others out of the college library a couple of years ago, this one was stuck in Early Printed Books (accessed through a set of underground corridors reminiscent of science fiction movies) and could only be read in the short periods of time I was willing to spend there being very very quiet.

Falconer’s Lure is “The Story of a Summer Holiday” and was (that introduction to Falconer’s Lure again!) originally intended to be a pony book. I love how openly Forest admits these are all about popular genres: “the only reason I had for writing a pony book was that everyone else was writing pony books just then”. Faber asked her to at least find a different animal, and so naturally she decided to write a book on falconry. The Marlow family are visiting Trennels, the farm + estate owned by Marlows for generations (since before William the Conqueror). Till now the Marlows have seemed the default upper-middle-class family that appears in most early-mid twentieth century children’s fiction. They can afford reasonably good schools, and we know that the father is in the navy. We now learn that they have this massive, 600-acre property behind them (Captain Marlow will inherit in the course of the book when his cousin Jon dies). The financial woes of the Marlows will occasionally surface in the later books in hilarious ways – Mrs Marlow will sell a tiara in order to buy her daughter Ginty a pony, and in The Cricket Term will write Nicola a letter explaining that the family cannot afford to keep so many people at the school and they have decided that Nicola is the one who will have to be removed.

Falconer’s Lure introduces Patrick, the boy next door (or on the next estate, at any rate) who becomes a part of all subsequent Marlow stories. He is interested in hawking and has three birds; Regina, Jael, and the unsatisfactory Sprog. By the end of the holidays he has none. Peter, hunting rabbits, shoots Jael. Regina first escapes then is let go. Nicola buys Sprog, since Patrick can’t take him to school.

Jael’s is the second death in the book – the first is that of Jon Marlow, the cousin from whom Trennels is inherited. Jon’s death in a plane crash is never as spectacular as the situation suggests; instead we have quietness. And then, as she stood up, it felt as if she had walked into a wall. For a moment, the landscape seemed to quiver. And then it was still again and she could move. And a couple of pages later:

Nicola, sauntering back to Trennels beside the slow stream and the dancing midges, met Peter at the plank bridge which crossed the stream just below the pool. He looked, she thought, rather odd. And he sounded odd, asking if Patrick had been stopped in time or was he anywhere around. The sun came down in slanting lines through the trees and made a fishnet of light on the bed of the stream. It was doing that when Nicola and Peter first met. It was still doing so, five minutes later. But by then Peter had managed to tell her that Cousin Jon had been killed when the plane crashed, and that made everything look quite different.

 Later, Nicola decides to sing Shakespeare’s “Fear No More” for a music competition. Her singing it in practice reminds her mother of Jon; later, during the competition she is forced to stop midway because it suddenly comes to signify Jael. Jael, who had hated to be pegged out in the full sun, and couldn’t be flown in a winter gale in case she were swept away on the storm [...] if she couldn’t stop thinking of Jael, noisy and furious, swinging from her jesses in the middle of the oak, she must just sing the beastly song in spite of it. Literature for Forest’s characters continues to be vital and real, something through which they experience their own emotions.

Yet authenticity matters still, as is evinced by the disgust shown when Ginty tries to romanticise the moment. And “We don’t wallow,” said Ginty, her face flaming, and knowing suddenly what Amy March meant when she described herself as mortified. Books again.

And words. Lawrie* asking her sister not to “be so cranious”. Yet she can be quelled when she’s being annoying by her father reciting Carroll’s Jabberwocky.

Her father fixed her with a terrible eye and said:

“‘Twas brillig and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe
All mimsy were the borogroves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.”

Lawrie sucked in her lips. She had grown very pink.

“Beware the Jabberwock my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch.”

Lawrie shut her eyes, screwed up, tight.

“He took his vorpal sword in hand: - 

“No!” shouted Lawrie, clapping her hands over her ears. “No, not that bit! I’ll unsay! Honest! Only stop now!”

“Well,” said Jonm an interested spectator as Captain Marlow sat back to relight his pipe, “whadda y’know? What’s so terrifying about the Jabberwock?

“All those words,” said Lawrie wriggling. “Ugh!”





* Nicola may be the heroine of the series, but  it’s Lawrie who gets all the best lines; her mourning for their old furniture which is to be sold is one of the high points of this book.