Today I’m delighted to welcome children’s author Alex Marchant. Her ‘Porridge & Cream’ read is Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper, first in the ‘Dark is Rising’ sequence of five books.
“Although I’m generally not one for re-reading books often, when Sandra kindly invited me to contribute my Porridge and Cream book, it took only a moment’s reflection to realize what it was: Susan Cooper’s ‘Over Sea, Under Stone’. Read first when I was ten or eleven – the ideal age for it and the ‘Dark is Rising’ sequence of which it is the first book – and read every few years since, it was the novel that called strongly to me during the early days of this spring’s lockdown in response to the upsurge of Coronavirus in the UK.
“Set during an idyllic summer in the mystical land of Logres (aka Cornwall), it follows the holiday adventures of the Drew children – Simon, Jane and Barney – along with borrowed red setter Rufus, as they battle the malevolent forces of ‘The Dark’ in a search for an ancient grail, aided only by a treasure map and their mysterious great-uncle Merry. As in many of her books, Cooper masterfully interweaves the ordinary lives of modern (well, 1960s/70s) children with local and national legends, seasons with plenty of ‘mild peril’, and serves up an exciting treat for younger readers – and a nostalgic feast for older ones such as myself.
“I haven’t been to Cornwall for too many years, but in a springtime when travel was impossible, ‘Over Sea, Under Stone’ went some way towards satisfying a yearning to be somewhere (and somewhen) else than in 2020 England ravaged by a pandemic. Being transported to a simpler time, when I knew everything would be ‘all right in the end’ (at least until the next book), was a comfort in those uncertain times. Perhaps more so than my usual escape from the twenty-first century – into the fifteenth century of my own books (despite the latter having been heavily influenced by Susan Cooper’s work themselves in their strong sense of place and their focus on the adventures of a similar closely knit group of young characters). I know where I’d rather be at this precise moment!”
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Children’s author Alex Marchant was born and raised in the rolling Surrey downs, but, following stints as an archaeologist and in publishing in London and Gloucester, now lives and works surrounded by the moors of ‘Brontë Country’, close to the northern heartland of King Richard III, the leading character of The Order of the White Boar sequence. The sequence was begun in 2013 after the announcement of the rediscovery of King Richard’s grave in a car park in Leicester, to seize the perfect opportunity to tell young people the story of the real king – rather than Shakespeare’s murderous villain. With its sequel, The King’s Man, The Order tells King Richard’s story through the eyes of a young page in his service, and the books have been called ‘a wonderful work of historical fiction for both children and adults’ by the Bulletin of the Richard III Society. Alex has also edited two anthologies of short fiction inspired by the maligned king – Grant Me the Carving of My Name and Right Trusty and Well Beloved…, both of which are sold to raise funds for Scoliosis Association UK (SAUK), a charity which supports young people with the same spinal condition as King Richard – and is currently writing a third book in the White Boar sequence, provisionally entitled ‘King in Waiting’, and also reworking an earlier novel for publication, the 2012 Chapter One Children’s Book Award winner Time out of Time.
Alex’s latest book
The Order of the White Boar, together with its sequel The King’s Man, tells the story of the real King Richard III, not Shakespeare’s murderous villain, through the eyes of a page in his service at the majestic castle of Middleham in the Yorkshire Dales. Twelve-year-old merchant’s son and talented singer Matthew Wansford secures his position as page despite having left York Minster song school under a cloud. He soon makes friends with fellow page Roger, Alys, a ward of the Queen, and Duke Richard of Gloucester’s only son, Edward, but also encounters a brutal bully, Hugh Soulsby, son of an executed traitor. Suitable for ages 10 to 110, The Order of the White Boar follows Matt and his friends’ adventures as the final days of the Wars of the Roses unfold towards the fateful Battle of Bosworth – and beyond….
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What is a ‘Porridge & Cream’ book? It’s the book you turn to when you need a familiar read, when you are tired, ill, or out-of-sorts, where you know the story and love it. Where reading it is like slipping on your oldest, scruffiest slippers after walking for miles. Where does the name ‘Porridge & Cream’ come from? Cat Deerborn is a character in Susan Hill’s ‘Simon Serrailler’ detective series. Cat is a hard-worked GP, a widow with two children and she struggles from day-to-day. One night, after a particularly difficult day, she needs something familiar to read. From her bookshelf she selects ‘Love in A Cold Climate’ by Nancy Mitford. Do you have a favourite read which you return to again and again? If so, please send me a message.
Discover the ‘Porridge & Cream’ books of these authors:-
Margaret Skea’s choice is ‘Anne of Green Gables’ by LM Montgomery
Laura Wilkinson chooses ‘The Secret Garden’ by Frances Hodgson Burnett
‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee is chosen by Renita D’Silva
And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Why does children’s author @AlexMarchant84 re-read OVER SEA, UNDER STONE by Susan Cooper #books https://wp.me/p5gEM4-4QG via @SandraDanby