|From left: the original George, the original Harris and 'J' Jerome K. Jerome. Imaginary dog not pictured.|
There are lots of poetical descriptions of the landscape (which Alice found dull) and history lessons, as they pass various towns and grand houses (which Alice found moderately interesting, so long as we could tie it into Horrible Histories -- the Saxons had us pretty baffled though). But her favourite parts of the narrative were the tall tales the three friends share (like George getting lost in the maze) and the silly accidents that befall them along the way - the tins that won't open, the boat cover that refuses to go up, the huge fish in the pub that every man who wanders in claims to have caught, and which eventually (after an unfortunate accident in which Harris climbs on the back of a chair to examine said fish more closely, but knocks it down and smashes it into a million pieces) proves to have been made of plaster all along.
The three men were closely based on Jerome himself and his two friends Carl Hentschel (renamed Harris) and George Wingrove. Only Montmorency the dog was entirely invented, which is a fact I'm reluctant to pass on to Alice after her reaction to the ending of the book. You see, the three men jump ship. They've sworn themselves to a fortnight's holiday, but the weather in the last few days is so unrelentingly terrible, they abandon the boat with two days to go, take a train back to town and treat themselves to a slap-up meal and a trip to the theatre instead.
'What?' Alice was outraged. 'That is a terrible ending.'
She's been brooding about it for days, and last night when Jerome's name popped up in another context,* she said savagely, 'Huh! He wrote really bad endings.'
'What's wrong with the ending?'
'Those three men were really bad role models. They just gave up. They should have stayed until the very end.'
It emerged that she felt cheated of another two days' worth of anecdotage and misadventure. In her view, sending the three men home early was sheer laziness on the part of the author, and she is not prepared to forgive it.
* He featured in Who Do You Think You Are? as a crusading journalist who ruined Emilia Fox's ancestor's name. Long story.
In Other News:Here is what the judges of the WA Premier's Book Awards said about Crow Country, which was shortlisted for the 2011 Young Adult award:
Kate Constable has taken a complex and contentious topic and handled it with a deftness that will be enjoyed by a casual reader but will be long considered by a thoughtful one. As race relations in this country are still being negotiated, this novel reminds us of past injustices while offering hope for a better future.The winner of the Young Adult award was my dear friend Penni Russon, for Only Ever Always, which makes me very happy:
Mysterious, complex and challenging, Only Ever Always is a beautifully written story of parallel lives where Claire in the now, and Clara in a dystopian, timeless world, each face similar difficulties. Is one the dreamer, the other the dream, and if so, which? Changing voices, points of view and place make this a very satisfying novel for a reader willing to give it the close attention it deserves.Couldn't have put it better myself! Congratulations, Pen.