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Bookery from Britannia

More reading!

I finally finished reading the Chronicles of Narnia series. Seven books, maybe 120-150 pages per book; shouldn’t have taken me the many months it did. But there’s a reason: I didn’t enjoy them very much. I loved The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe when I was a kid, and I still think it’s the best one of the series. But honestly, they start going downhill from The Horse and His Boy and never really recover. Three gripes:

The Horse and His Boy really rattled me. The baddies were, basically, an Arabic race. A not-even-barely-shielded representation, and only one redeemable character from the whole race. They are treacherous, cruel and self-interested, and what’s more their food leaves something to be desired. Oil with bread instead of butter! Outrage. I felt like there were some pretty strong racial overtones and I did not like it. Boo Calormenes! Yay Narnians!

Speaking of food, the Narnia series is absolutely jam-packed with talking animals, but that doesn’t seem to present any body with moral qualms when it comes to eating meat. In The Silver Chair (I think) the main characters are horrified to realise that the venison they were served came from a talking stag, but that’s the closest anybody comes to thinking about this dissonance.

Finally, I’ve got to admit, I was getting pretty sick of being preached at. HERE COMES A BIG FAT SPOILER ABOUT THE LAST BOOK EVERYONE. READ ON AT YOUR PERIL! In the final book, The Last Battle, the kids from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe make an appearance again, all except Susan. Why not Susan, the second-eldest of the four? Because, as her brother describes her, she is “no longer a friend of Narnia”, Why? Because “she’s interested in nothing now-a-days except nylons and lipstick and invitations.” Basically, Susan has grown into a different person, with different values, and therefore is outcast from the glory of Narnia. (This would have annoyed me more, but frankly by the time I got this far, the end of the series was tantalisingly close and I couldn’t be bothered.) Seems a bit rough,

I feel a little guilty about reporting negatively about this series. I know it’s a kids’ series, but I know so many adults that read it and reread it, I assumed there would be something to it I could get into. And, for kids, it’s not a bad series. I totally admit that reading it as a grownup has skewed my enjoyment — if I was still eleven, I’d probably love the pants off these books. But if you’re a grown up, and you’re thinking (as I was) “hey, I never read the whole Narnia series! I should totally do that!” then I recommend you proceed with caution.

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