In the beginning...

...there were The Flyaways, a family who traveled in their miraculous flying machine having daring adventures with Goldilocks and Cinderella. The first in the 3-book series by Alice Dale Hardy was published by Grosset and Dunlap in 1925 and copies are almost extinct. Few people remember Ma and Pa, Tommy and Susie Flyaway now.

I became acquainted with them on my grandfather's lap, my dear Grandpa Baker who read and read and read to me every evening for as many years as I can remember. I would hold my breath as each chapter ending neared, hoping he would not stop. I would keep begging for "just one more" chapter until his voice got so hoarse I would have to run to his room to get his throat lozenges.

Over the years we covered all of Uncle Wiggly and Honey Bunch, the Bobbsey Twins, the Five Little Peppers, the Wind in the Willow series, some of them more than once. He read to me until long after I could read everything for myself, until I was into Beverly Gray, Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys. I was safe and happy snuggled up on the couch with him and that feeling has never left me. I still read and read and read, and it still makes me feel safe and happy.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Child 44

I almost rejected this book before I started it. I admit it - I have trouble with Russian names. I ploughed my way through all the Russian classics as a young woman and enjoyed them tremendously. After that, I (unconsciously?) avoided them because the names confuse me. Child 44 reminded me of that. How glad I am that I did not let it deter me, because once I got into it, I was mesmerized. Set in the period of Stalin's iron-handed rule and prodigiously researched by this first time novelist, Tom Rob Smith, I was surprised at what I learned that I did not realize. This author was gifted in his ability to draw the reader into the thought processes of the era and characters, whose lives were so controlled by the State that it made Hitler's Germany look mild by comparison. Child 44 is, among other things, a murder mystery. Scores of children have been victim to a serial killer, a fact that the government refuses to acknowledge because there is no such crime in a police state. The murders are all explained away as aberrations. One man refuses to conform to this belief, however, and his loses the life that he has worked for and valued because he fights to prove the truth. It is an amazing story, made more so by the idea that this kind of thinking exists and is promulgated by those in authority, who have such control over the lives of their citizens. It left me open-mouthed in places and even a little frightened. It is a story well worth reading, although, yes, I did struggle in spots to keep the characters straight.

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