Thursday, August 16, 2007

An Ancient Castle

by Robert Graves

Started: 13 August 2007
Finished: 15 August 2007

I've always loved castles. When I lived in England, one of my favorite things to do was to go "castle-hunting". The way you hunt castles is to get yourself a really good map which shows all the most obscure castle ruins and tiniest cow paths and farm roads leading to them, and then figure out which route will allow you to see the most castles in a given area. It's best if you can take a few days, or even a week and to find a corner of the United Kingdom which is liberally sprinkled with old castles. My own personal favorite place for castle-hunting is Wales--which also happens to be the setting for this book.

Better known for I, Claudius and his autobiography about World War 1, Good-Bye to All That, Robert Graves wrote An Ancient Castle in the early 1930s and then apparently abandoned the work where it lay untouched until his death. Although considered a work for children, it's not the sort of fiction which would appeal to many children today, mostly because it requires a bit of imagination. Nor should it be considered -- and dismissed -- as simply children's literature. Too many good stories are consigned to sit on the shelves, ignored by adults and youth alike, because each considers the piece of work more appropriate for the other. A shame and a waste.

In An Ancient Castle, there is, of course, an ancient castle, and a boy and girl, several adults and their controversy, plus a mystery and an exciting discovery. It's a quaint, old-fashioned story; because of this, it reminds me of my childhood and some of the books I used to read then. Times were slower and books were a reflection of the time.

And it reminds me of castle-hunting in Wales. Driving along a single lane between two hedgerows, not sure where I was going, late in the afternoon, cresting a hill and then sighting it off in the distance sitting atop a hill, my ancient castle.
Highly Recommended! ***1/2

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