The Owl Service by Alan Garner


I loved Alan Garner’s books as a child and his name was the first that came into my head when I thought about the Childhood Favourites Reading.

But, because I always borrowed his books from the library and have never owned any of them, this was the first time I have held one of his books in several decades.

It was a risk to go back but I had faith in the quality of Alan Garner’s writing, and so I took the chance and ordered up a copy of “The Owl Service” from Cornwall County Library’s fiction reserve.

The copy that arrived dates back to the sixties, so it could even be the very same volume I read as a child.

“The Owl Service” is a wonderful story that brings Welsh mythology to life in a modern day setting.

Alison hears scratching above her ceiling when in bed with a stomachache. The cook’s son Gwyn helps her to open the hatch leading to the loft so they can investigate. All they find is a pile of plates.

The plates have what looks like an abstract patterned border. Alison discovers though that when she traces around the pattern on pieces of paper and fit them together they form tiny paper owls.

And then strange things start to happen. The pattern disappears from plates brought down from the attic and, however many owls Alison constructs, they all disappear.

Gwyn’s mother is clearly alarmed by the discovery. The hatch to the attic is nailed up and, when their interest persists, Alison and Gwyn are forbidden to meet them to meet.

When he hears what is happening Huw, the elderly and eccentric local handyman tells Gwyn a local legend that may be linked to the owl service. It seems that there are things in his own past that Gwyn knows nothing about and that he may have a role to play….

Alan Garner writes lovely prose, cleverly working in a Welsh myth from “The Mabinogion” into his contemporary story, and creating a real page-turner. I was happy to find that “The Owl Service” still had the power to both scare and enchant me.

I’m so glad I risked the re-read!

Childhood Favourites Challenge


I was thrilled to find this challenge this morning. It’s a wonderful idea and it brightened up a dull work day.

It’s being hosted by Lynda and it has a dedicated blog here.

The challenge runs from 21st December 2008 – 21st June 2009

Here’s how it works:

  • Read a minimum of 5 books which you loved as a child. Anything from Dr.Seuss and Beatrix Potter to Water Scott – you choose your favourites. They must be books you read as a child, not new children’s books.
  • Start this challenge on or after 21st December 2008. Finish by 21st June 2009.You therefore have 6 months to complete the challenge.
  • Send an email if you would like an invitation to post on the challenge blog.
  • Post your choices on your blog and/or the group blog.You can choose in advance or pick as you go along.
  • Cross overs with other challenges, audio books, eBooks all acceptable.

I have chosen 6 books:

  • The Owl Service, by Alan Garner
  • Anne of Green Gables, by L M Montgomery
  • A Dolls House, by Rumer Godden
  • Little Women, by Louisa M Alcott
  • Alice In Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll
  • The Borrowers, by Mary Norton

There are some books I’d be worried about going back to in case they didn’t have that same magic now I have joined the ranks of the grown-ups, but I have great confidence in the ones I have selected.