A magical read

Mary Norton's Bedknob and Broomstick is a charming read. It was originally published as two separate volumes, and breaks quite happily and naturally in the middle of the current book. Although Disney's film was based on the book, it is much more strongly influenced by the first half with only some minor details from the second half (my favourite) included.

The first half follows the adventures of the children as they first learn to use the magical bedknob, including altercations with London policemen, and a visit to a cannibal isle. The second half moves the action on by about a year, and this time sees them take a trip into the past where they meet up with the useless, but endearing necromancer, Emilius Jones. Emilius is convinced that magic doesn't exist, but discovering that it's real is going to land him in all sorts of trouble....

The first half is influenced very strongly by E. Nesbit, most notably The Phoenix and the Carpet (see earlier review). Both the childrens' interactions with the adult world and the places their adventures take them are very Nesbit. But the second half of the novel inhabits a completely different world, by turns enchanting and scary. The author writes convincingly here of the need for toleration contrasting the gentle, otherworldly Jones with the scary face of mass hysteria. A well written and enchanting read, I'm glad that I re-read it.


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