Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Changeover's Fairy Tale Journey

Margaret Mahy's The Changeover is a beautiful, lyrical book for young adults.  The narrative contains fantastic elements but doesn't, to me, feel like a fairy tale. The titular changeover itself, though, is structured very much around the shape of a fairy tale journey. The language is lovely and haunting, dense with allusion.

"With the coming of the tiger the forest shifted, becoming older and darker.  Moss hung from the trees, and the only sound was the faint trickle and gush of distant water.  Laura now began to feel an ache in her neck and shoulders, as if she were pushing against an intangible resistance, and vaguely thought it might be something like the past, or reality, for a stream of shadowy figures began to flow past her, all going in the opposite direction form the one she and the tiger, slipping distantly through the trees, were following.... She saw dwarfs, lost princes, beautiful girls who had committed themselves to silence in order to save brothers turned into swans or ravens, young men who thrived on sunshine and dwindled with darkness, mutilated maidens who wept over their own silver arms, and then simpler people, three bears, the girl in the red hood, the lost children who found their way home, the lost children who didn't and were covered with leaves by the robins."

If you like young adult novels and are amenable to fairy tale logic, this is a beautifully constructed book.  What I particularly admire is the way Mahy balances the shifting logic of adolescence and of making ones way into the world of adulthood with the logic of the magical events.  The threads of the story refer to each other and interweave with each other, the magical and the mundane, in a way that is precise and organic.