Author: Mary Norton | Publisher: Puffin Classics
I only have 10 or 11 books left to complete my Book Dragon Challenge; one of the categories left till last was “a book you hated as a child”, because I really struggled to think of a book I didn’t like as a child! You only really remember the ones you loved, don’t you? There was Little Women; too, too sad, so I never could get through it. Swallows and Amazons, which I professed not to like because my dad forced me to read it (it was one of his favourites as a child), but secretly enjoyed. And then I remembered The Borrowers… I’d picked it up once or twice and then lost interest. I was one of those strange children that loved old classics (do such children even exist anymore?), so I’m not sure what it was that turned me off it! My dad also took us to watch the movie, which I found “creepy”. Anyway, picking it back up, I can’t say I had high hopes!
But I have been very, very wrong – The Borrowers is just so lovely! I couldn’t put it down! I have no idea why I didn’t enjoy it as a child, because it’s beautiful! Clearly, I missed out.
If you haven’t read it, it’s set in a lovely old house. The kind of house you would find in an Agatha Christie novel, and which I’m fairly sure almost no-one lives in nowadays. A house with a day and a night nursery (can you imagine?). Like all great children’s books, you are immediately transported to this whole other world, without an over abundance of description. I’ve always thought that must take immense skill to pull off. I adored the tiny house that the borrowers have made under the floor, behind the clock. The way they had repurposed odd items to make furniture and crockery and so on. It was just magical. I also loved the way the world was described from the stance of a tiny person. The way a flower would look, or a carpet would seem like a meadow. I found that quite enthralling. That’s the great strength of old books, they have a magic that you find so rarely in modern children’s literature.
The story itself is very sweet. It trots along at a fair pace, with all the twists and turns, the drama, whimsy and humour, you want as an adult. The kind of book a child would gasp over, turning the pages quickly to find out what happened next. I liked the way it was narrated by an older person to a child, but yet somehow, quite seamlessly, it was as if you were there in the midst of it. You were never quite sure if it was a made-up story, to entertain a child; a story made-up by the brother of the narrator when she was a child; or if it was real. And you so want it to be real!
I love the characters. Little Arrietty, Homily and Pod. They very so unique, and yet so familiar. So human. The way Arrietty wants to go and have adventures, and you really do end up cheering her on. Her slightly neurotic mother and the way her father worries about her. I became rather attached to them all! I’m dying to get the next book and find out what happens to them!
My only slight complaint is the ending. I won’t spoil it, but I did hope for something a little different.
All in all, I adored The Borrowers! It’s a wonderful book and I’m just going to recommend it for everyone – it’s that good…