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julianmeynell

Julian Meynell's Books

I like Books.

White's The Sword and the Stone

The Sword in the Stone - T.H. White

This book is remarkable and wonderful.  It concerns the training of a young boy named Wart (the future King Arthur at the hands of the wizard Merlyn.  

It is a collection of incidents primarily and there is not really an overarching point although at all times T.H. White feels free to express points of view and take positions.  It never talks down to Children as all good children's books do and is a wonderful melange of history, myth and the traditions of the early 20th century English gentry.  White blends real history, myth, folklore and modern allusions perfectly and expertly.  The characters are well drawn for what is essentially a comedic novel.  Wart is a well realized character and the depiction of Merlyn as a kind of absent minded academic, while it might seem to be a bunch of cliches is expertly done.  

Darkness is blended in with the comedy in an expert fashion.  In a fundamentally light bit of whimsy where Merlyn turns Wart into a fish we meet the dark figure of a Pike who is the tyrant of the moat.  This darkness is done very well, which is often not the case in children's literature.  All the sequences of magical transformation, are done extremely well, as is the sequence in which Wart and Kay are captured by the witch Madame Mim.  The section on Madame Mim contains a good example of White's brillance in that it includes a heroic elderly goat, who is a very fine character as all the animals are.

What is best about the book is White's language in which he feels free to make starling although witty allusions, quote from ancient roman writers and generally avails himself of any technique he feels like to create a language that varies between very good and amongst the most satisfying in children's literature.  The back of my book calls it a masterpiece and so it is.  Clearly one of the greatest children's novels ever written and an absolute delight to read.