Marshmallow recently read Over Sea, Under Stone written by Susan Cooper and first published in 1965. Today she is discussing it with Sprinkles.
Sprinkles: So Marshmallow, why don’t you start with a brief summary of what this book is about?
Marshmallow: Sure. Over Sea, Under Stone is about three kids, Barney, Simon and Jane. They are on vacation with their parents in Cornwall and are staying in an old house they rented together with an old family friend Great-Uncle Merry. Then they discover a mysterious map in a small room behind a wardrobe.
S: Oh, so like the kids in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, the first book written in the Chronicles of Narnia series, who find a new world within a wardrobe?
M: It is similar, but not quite the same. They do not go and find a new world inside the wardrobe. They find a map which allows them to see their own world through a new perspective.
S: How so?
M: When they show Great-Uncle Merry the map, he tells them of an ongoing war between good and evil, and that the warriors on both sides still are fighting it to this day.
S: Yes, this is a good summary I think. But this good versus evil fight is not as tied in with Christianity as it was in Narnia. Here, the good side is tied back to the King Arthur legends instead. It seems more directly connected to English lore. But the way you talked about the main characters, I also thought of a few other books you have reviewed for this blog. For example you reviewed Five Children and It by E. Nesbit and there too there were a few siblings that find something interesting during a family vacation. You also reviewed Half Magic by Edward Eager which is similar.
M: Yes! And Half Magic by Edward Eager also involved the King Arthur legends in some ways.
S: So it seems like there is this genre of siblings, a handful of ordinary kids finding something extraordinary and then their lives change. Would you like that to happen to you and Caramel?
S: Why not?
M: Possibly because they almost always get into real big trouble. Almost always there is a real big danger. And that’s not very appealing to me.
S: I see. But you seem to like reading about these kinds of things happening to other little bunnies. I guess you enjoy living vicariously through these characters’ adventures!
M: Yes! I will agree to that.
S: Apparently Susan Cooper, the author, wrote four more books about the same conflict between good and evil after this one, starting about ten years after having published this book. Together the five books make up the Dark is Rising sequence. Are you curious about those books?
M: Well, I am curious about what Cooper does with the world, but honestly I am not always too keen to read about female characters written in the time these books were written. They are almost always too stereotypical. I was disappointed with the female characters in Narnia, and here, too, I was disappointed that Jane always worried about cleanliness and her brothers always picked on her for being a girl.
S: I know what you mean. But I thought Jane was not too terrible. She did sense something was wrong with the Withers from the start. And the boys did eventually treat her a bit better. So maybe the other books will be a bit better?
M: I did read an excerpt of the second book at the end of this book and it seemed like there are a whole lot of new characters in there.
S: Yes, I think that is the case. I also heard that many people like that second book a lot. So we might just have to read it to see for ourselves, don’t you think?
S: So let us wrap this up then. How would you rate this book?
M: Let me see. There was not much humor and the kids were a little too serious for me, I could not relate to any of them, but the story was quite intriguing and kept me wondering till the end.
S: Yes, it was quite stressful for me at times. I did think the author kept up the suspense well till the end.
M: I was not stressed myself but the story did work well. So I rate the book 95% and recommend it to other bunnies. Stay tuned for more book bunnies reviews!