Sunday, May 10, 2020

North Child by Edith Pattou

2019, first published 2003  

This is another of those books that are difficult to place exactly. It is a fairy story and contains some tropes with which even the youngest reader is familiar: the prince trapped in an animal’s body, an icy queen enchanting a weakened male, the young maiden – who happens here to be called Rose, so could remind us of Rose Red or Briar Rose,  – choosing to go back to the home of the beast. Yet love is explored in great detail so it may suit the more emotionally mature reader.  There is no sex but Rose does share a bed with an at the time unknown male. Might it yet appeal to young adults? 

In traditional fairy stories, characters are rarely named.  We do discover The Troll Queen’s name towards the end of the story but throughout the book she is mainly known as the Troll Queen. The prince himself has lost his name and only marries Rose when he finds it again. However, Rose and her siblings and parents are named and so are some of the other trolls.  

We are close to several of the characters as Edith Patoou gives them strong voices.  Chapters are recited variously by Rose, her father, her brother Neddy, the White Bear (Charles) and the Troll Queen. Thus she creates believable and rounded characters with whom we can empathise.  Yes, even the Troll Queen has some of our sympathy because she is just a woman in love. 

There is quite a feminist theme here. Rose is the strong character and goes on her adventure.  Neddy is a warm person  but is only able to help a little.  The White Bear is drugged and succumbs to the charms of the Troll Queen. On her journey Rose is helped more by three women than by any of the men who try to help.  Father, a talented map-maker, is somewhat under the thumb of his superstitious wife Eugenia. 

An extremely mature primary school reader could cope with this text.  It is over 400 pages long but the chapters are very short and although the texts is blocked and uses an adult font, it is double-spaced.  The first person narrative may be a little uncomfortable for the primary school reader, however.  There are a few decorative images here and there.  There is enough complexity to satisfy the older reader, including adults   

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