Sunday, 2 September 2018

'The Attempt'

The penultimate tale in Sparks from the Fire has the feel of a children's story - a tale of children, for children. Bright ones, I hasted to add. Saskia is a girl who lives on the shore of a lake, which marks the border with another land. We may be in North-Eastern Europe, Saskia and her brother Pieter amuse themselves by creating a fantasy world, consisting of a family home made from Lego bricks.

One day Saskia decides to have an adventure and cross the frozen lake, mainly to prove to Pieter - and herself - that she can do it. The description of the crossing is central, and it combines naturalism with a feeling of fable. This is nature as magical realm in a Blackwoodian sense - not evil or menacing, but awe-inspiring and never wholly knowable.

When Saskia reaches the other side she finds nobody around. Disappointed in having no one to witness her triumph, she sets off for home, only to get lost. The frozen lake is so wide that you can't see one side from the other, and Saskia's navigational skills are somewhat rudimentary. When she finally makes the shore a second time it is not home she finds. Or rather, not her home. But it is quite familiar in some ways.

The final story from this collection is coming up. Stay tuned!

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