Thursday, June 05, 2008

Minnow on the Say

When Philip came to the single rose
Over the water
The treasure was taken where nobody knows
None but my daughter

OK, I might not have remembered it exactly right, but it must be well over thirty years since I read Minnow on the Say. I was constantly reading as a child, so I must have read hundreds of books, but very few of them have stayed with me. This one has. I can see the scene in my imagination as clearly as if it were a memory, of the bridge with its stone-carved roses, and the boy in the canoe beneath. Of course, in my mind's eye, the Say takes the shape of the stream that I used to cross every day on the way to school, where sometimes, very daringly, I would scramble down to the water's edge.

I haven't re-read it yet, but I roughly recall the plot as lonely boy spends long summer holidays solving Elizabethan riddle to find long-hidden treasure. It's the atmosphere and the vividness of the imagery, rather than the plot, that made it so special. And maybe, with hindsight, the river setting.

What I didn't remember was that Minnow on the Say, first published in 1955, is by Philippa Pearce, author of that other haunting favourite, Tom's Midnight Garden. It was her first book, and it's still in print. I was tempted to buy a copy from Amazon, but I think first I will see if I can borrow it from the library, as I did all those years ago.

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