Childermass knew the world. Childermass knew what games the children on street-corners are playing – games that all other grown-ups have long since forgotten. Childermass knew what old people by firesides are thinking of, though no one has asked them in years. Childermass knew what young men hear in the rattling of the drums and the tooting of the pipes that make them leave their homes and go to be soldiers – and he knew the half-eggcupful of glory and the barrelful of misery that await them. Childermass could look at a smart attorney in the street and tell you what he had in his coat-tail pockets. And all that Childermass knew made him smile; and some of what he knew made him laugh out loud; and none of what he knew wrung from him so much as a ha´pennyworth of pity.
From S. Clarkes novel Jonathan Strange & Mr Norell
Clarke has pointed out Childermass as her own favourite, and the one that will be her next lead character if she should decide to write us more stories from her, in a strange way historically accurate but by magic made transparent England.
Art by Janosh Falk luciocrescent.deviantart.com
Illustration by Portia Rosenberg from 1. edition (2004) of Strange & Norell on Bloomsbury
Apart from Tolkien who is a holy man and except for the a little cynical un- romantic finale, this story, in the fantastic style and put to the neapolitan era , is a whole galaxy ahead of all other literary mischiefs done by authors and published as «fantasy, not literature». You can’t deny this, because Neil Gaiman agrees with me. This world Clarke writes us is so real that we can taste the snowflakes as they tasted in the pure, only newly polluted and unmelted 1800’s. And at the same time as it is real, it is magically transparent, in the degree of causing a little headache, as you first are transported body and soul back to the 1800’s, and then you fall through the pavement of these icy winter streets, and down underground into the brugh, and the dangerous uncontrolled world of the Gentleman. Here’s a true badass you can fall in love with. Now we talk dark secrets, such as the earlier mentioned mr Grey knows nothing about. Never again will you be able to trust a group of birch- trees, and you will be rightfully suspicious to things you really relied upon before, like for example your own sadness. This book, that like the old folk tales, has layers of wisdom implemented in and under the story, may show you that sadness is one of the roads to Perdition, understood as never being able to return whole and safe to your armchair, in front of the fireplace, again. Therefore see too that you read all the book’s fat footnotes carefully and learn well the spells that still works.