Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Books 40 & 41 of 2016: Farmer Giles of Ham and The Adventures of Tom Bombadil by J.R.R. Tolkien & Rewards and Fairies by Rudyard Kipling

With the end of the A to Z Challenge we can return to your normally scheduled blog posts, which means that for the first time in over a month, it's time for a book review post.

Way back in September last year I picked up a book which I'd actually been given some time previously and it had sat on my bookshelf waiting for me to get around to it.

Image from Tolkien Library
That was a single volume edition of Farmer Giles of Ham and The Adventures of Tom Bombadil by J.R.R. Tolkien. The latter is a collection of poetry which I've read before, the former is a short story about the titular Farmer Giles and his adventure which involves a dragon.

I've read The Adventures of Tom Bombadil many times before but Farmer Giles of Ham was entirely new to me. It's actually one which I'd been hoping to get my hands on for a while but I hadn't yet found a copy of it. Until a friend saw it in a charity shop and knowing me as well as she does, bought it without even asking whether I needed it.

I actually feel like I need to reread the first half of this book. I don't know if it was because I was just reading it in dribs and drabs every now and again so I didn't get a continuous run at it, or if it was just because the story was brand new to me, but I found it a little tricky to follow at times. I think I'd do better taking the time to sit and read it for a while, rather than the odd page here and there as I did.

I love Pauline Bayne's illustrations. Her illustrated poster of 'Bilbo's Last Song' hangs at the bottom of my staircase and I look at it each time I come down those stairs. I thought her illustrations for Farmer Giles were like the pictures you get on tapestries.

As always, my absolute favourite part of The Adventures of Tom Bombadil is 'The Mewlips'. It's dark and creepy but conjures up such vivid imagery for me.

I still think the poems sound best when they're read aloud. You get a better sense of the rhythm of them than just read silently.

I followed this up with a Rudyard Kipling ebook which has been hanging around on my Kindle since virtually the time that I figure got one, Rewards and Fairies.

This is a collection of stories and poems. The stories follow a couple of children who meet a fairy called Puck who introduces them to a number of historical characters. These are interspersed with little poems.

I found this a tricky read. The children would meet 'people of the past days' who would then tell them stories, so you've got a story within a story going on. At times I found it a little confusing about who was speaking and whether they were telling a story of the present day or the past.

Although the stories were quite nice, I actually preferred the poetry in this book over the prose. That's not to say I didn't enjoy the stories. To begin with it reminded me of a sort of cross between Enid Blyton (specifically The Faraway Tree, since they were meeting new people each time they met Puck) and Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

I would have liked to know a little more about the historical people the children were meeting and the eras they were from. I got the impression that I should have known who a couple of them were but I just didn't have a clue. Perhaps I would have enjoyed their stories more if I'd understood their backstory.

It seemed to take me ages to get through what was otherwise a pretty short book. Insomnia helpfully got me to the end of it.

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Let me know what you think. :-)