20 December, 2011

Casual violence for children

Henry Treece

There was a time when i read everything i could get my hands on by Henry Treece; it must have started at least forty years ago, because i know that i was at Shrewsbury House when i first read any of his books; i can also remember in the very early 1970s, in Vancouver, visiting the book bus that came around to West Point Grey, and desperately searching for any of Treece’s works ~ usually unsuccessfully. It is thus now at least thirtyfive years since i’ve read these books i loved, and i almost jumped for joy when i came across this one in the Machynlleth market; in fact, i had to physically restrain myself so that the stall-holder wouldn’t suddenly raise the price (50p ~ can you beat it!) knowing she had a live one. Of course, i could have bought all of them at any time (assuming i had money!) in any bookshop or on-line, but how much more joy has been brought to me by this method than that. Furthermore, a particular joy of this book is that i think it could well be the exact edition i read previously; certainly, the cover art looks very familiar, it is a Puffin book, and is price-marked at 3/6 (verbalised as “three and six” meaning three shillings and six pence, or rather less than half the very good price i just paid for it [50p equates to ten shillings, old style]!), so clearly this volume dates to prior to 15 February 1971, Decimalisation Day. So, the book itself? Well, what can there be other than joy in rereading something one has held in rosy memory for so long? To be sure, it’s simple: It was written for children; it’s more story than history: It is fiction; it’s casually brutal: It was written prior to the contemporary concern with correctness and concern for “lesser” peoples. But these are not really faults, merely descriptions of what, why, and when it was written. It is also a great story, exciting, based in truth, a superb introduction to an era of history, and, to put it simply, extremely enjoyable. I’d like to read this aloud to JAG.

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