Friday, March 20, 2009

Book: Widdershins

Finally I got to read this book, which I've been dancing around ever since last October when I saw it at the library. Back then, I didn't really know who Jilly and Geordie were, and I didn't know why there was such a big deal about whether or not they would get together. But now, after Dreams Underfoot and Memory and Dream and The Onion Girl, I was ready.

And... of course, it was good! It's Charles de Lint. So automatically it's a step above your average novel. However, I didn't looooove it as much as I loved Memory and Dream, or The Little Country. But that doesn't mean it was anything short of terrific. Rather than being a fantastic stand-alone novel, it felt more like a continuation of a very wonderful, comfortable story with old friends. Which it was. When we last left Jilly Coppercorn, she was The Broken Girl: crippled, unhealed, left with unanswered questions and diminished Light and artistic abilities. Her best friend, Geordie, was in L.A. pursuing a relationship. Her sister tried to kill her. Things weren't looking so great.

So this book is the exception to de Lint's practice of not doing sequel-style novels. This picks up where we left Jilly. It takes place partially in the real world, and partially in the Other World. The Dreamlands. And partially in Jilly's own head. Too complicated to fully go into here, I'll instead focus on the parts that really affected me.

The main thing that impressed me (and always impresses me about de Lint books) is how unfraid of the darkness he is. He is not afraid to Go There. After a series of events leads Jilly to a mirror world in her own head (mirroring her childhood, which is a nightmare), we are faced with the horrors that Jilly has been carrying around with her. Her abusive demon of a brother, Del, is now The Conjurer, where what he says, goes. Her fall-guy imaginary character, an innocent little girl with an enchanted bear, is trying to kill her for leaving her there to take the full brunt of Del's evil ways. And there is seemingly nothing Jilly can do to escape or change the inevitable: she's back in the nightmare. Del has changed her back to her 8-year-old body, and is listing all the ways he's going to make up for lost time. It's horrifying to contemplate.

In desperation, she pulls some of the people closest to her into the world she's created for herself. And... they get destroyed. The horrors continue.

How will Jilly escape? And how can she ever heal these deep, black wounds? Will she ever be whole again? I kept reading to find out how Jilly overcomes her deepest fears and most deeply-held beliefs. I was so glad that de Lint handled this with grace and wisdom, and didn't take the easy way out (with a few exceptions).

There is a lot of Native American folklore/spirit overlap in this book -- a little too much for my tastes. Each character was well-done, but I didn't really get the significance of Grey, even though he was a central character. And I felt that there was too much emphasis put on the distracting cousin/fairy war erupting. I could easily have done without all of that, and instead focused on Jilly and Geordie and how Jilly finally overcame her demons.

It felt a little long. However, totally worth reading for the delightful happy ending which felt very true and right, and now has satisfied my Charles de Lint cravings for awhile. I think also I really love it when he talks about art, and artists, and how art affects the world, and there wasn't as much of that in this book, and I missed it. However, if you're reading all the Newford books, you have to read this to see what finally happens with Jilly! Not to be missed.


And now what? I have Son of a Witch by Gregory Macguire. I also have Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood. Both could possibly fit in the Once Upon A Time challenge (I think...). However, first I've got to catch up with my Anna Karenina reading. I have to say that this stretching-a-book-out-for-months thing doesn't work AT ALL for me. I have to pace myself and that's very difficult. I'd rather read it all in one gulp. But, I'll catch up and do some posting over at the Anna K. blog. And then decide what's up next.


Tammie said...

do you know i knew very little about charles de lint before you? now i want to know more. what one de lint book should i read first?

(and btw: mailed out your 'prize' on friday. it should be in your neck of the woods by early next week i assume. oh and i loved your "im too sexy" story...that song really was everywhere for a while.)

Miss D. said...

Tammie: I would start with either Memory and Dream, or Dreams Underfoot (which is sort of short stories, but is a great introduction to Newford, where a lot of his books are set). I am not a short-story reader but did enjoy Dreams Underfoot. I would also try The Little Country, or if you like young adult, The Blue Girl.

Yay! Another de Lint convert!

Nymeth said...

After The Onion Girl I really wanted to read this, but it's probably best to go back to the short story collections and get better acquainted with the characters first.

Susan said...

Here is my review of Widdershins, which I read last year: I really enjoyed your review. As you can see, I had some of the same problems with Grey, and that he does go all the way with Jilly and resolves it, happily. I also love how he talks about art and the world, which you're right, isn't so much in this book. I have two of his to read for OUT3, and for Canadian 2 Eh challenge - I'm doing all of his books! - so I'm getting in the mood for a Charles de Lint month to catch up. I still think he doesn't get quite enough recognition for what he does in his writing. What do you think?

Miss D. said...

Nymeth: I would recommend the short story collection before reading Widdershins... it's worth reading, though!

Susan: ooh, thanks for the review link, I will check it out right now. I totally agree with you about de Lint -- completely under-appreciated. You know he lives in Ottawa, right? And plays music locally? You should go see him!!

Carl V. said...

Fantastic review. Absolutely fantastic. Oddly enough, Widdershins was the first de Lint novel I picked up. Just before it came out I read an interview with him where he described why he wrote the book and that, combined with his hints that this would be a good ending of a love story made me want to pick it up first. I LOVED IT. Correction, I LOVE it! I was sold on de Lint from that point on. Widdershins will always be a special book to me because it was the first de Lint I read.

Miss D. said...

Carl: I'm not sure this would be my pick for a 'first' de Lint novel, but it was really good and had a wonderful ending. I hope Jilly and Geordie grow old together, with lots of music and art and fairies in their life.

Carl V. said...

I'm not sure I would either, but it fit the bill for me. I wanted to read something that I new would have some fulfilled romance in it and it was exactly what I wanted it to be and made me a de Lint fan for life!