Hi Virtually Readers! Have you been following our wildly popular (lol) blog series ‘tis the Season of Rereading? It is Christmas eve here and the air is slightly smoky from the fire and my cheeks are warm from mulled wine. Shar and I have created a fun feature where we summarise the books that the other person has reread to see what we remember. (Ingo technically was not part of the series but Shar had read it and not the Madeliene L’Engle books). Just know that there are spoilers for Ingo, the Wouldbegoods, Strange the Dreamer, and City of the Beasts; if you don’t want to know what happens or hear possibly incorrect versions of such, then click through to the normal posts! (For more thoughts, see Is it worth reading something if we won’t remember it? or Books Shanti Remembers)
Shar: So there’s these siblings called Sapphy and Conor. They live in Cornwall and their dad died in the sea last year. I think they like going to this little secret cove near their house and swimming or maybe surfing. One day they discover that they’re actually part Mer when they meet a really nice mermaid (or rather, merman) called Faro, who is super interested in the human world, kind of like the little mermaid. He takes them to ingo and they discover that their dad isn’t actually dead, but was swallowed by the waves and became a mermaid and has a new wife(because of their Mer blood, they can breathe underwater. I can’t remember what the plot focuses on. There’s a Granny who is very wise and expert. Maybe a storm?? Sapphy has to deal with the fact her dad left her, and her response is very different to Conor’s, which makes them fight a bit. And they don’t tell their mother… in hindsight these are very independent 15 year olds.
Shanti: you get 5/10 marks. Your characters are basically spot on, and the dad does disappear, and your names are correct. The main conflict is that after a year their mum starts going out with someone new and that makes Sapphy upset (while Conor is cool with it). Granny Carne, the local Wise Woman ™ gives vague advice–and then at the end Conor and Sapphy have to save the guy their mum is dating.
The Wouldbegoods summary
Shanti: There are these kids and they make a fake jungle. Or wait, is that the Treasure Seekers? Anyway there parents are poor and they want to be less poor so they spend a lot of time engaged in various harebrained money-making schemes and basically hassle the adults around them until someone takes pity on them and gives them for the lols. Aren’t troublesome children charming? Shouldn’t we indulge the by revealing that they are the heirs to a fortune they didn’t know about? Don’t they deserve happiness? Also there is a very funny narrator which is one of the children (there are a great many of them, like six) and he *tries* to be impartial with variable results.
Shar: You get 3/10 . You started off right… there’s these kids that make a fake jungle, get all the stuffed animals wet and make an absolute mess of the yard, and as a punishment, get sent to the country for their summer holidays. There are 6 Bastables and 2 Foulkes, who are their friends who get into trouble with them. (Note this was published over a century ago). The Treasure Seekers, the first (and frankly, inferior) book was about their harebrained money-making schemes. Now their dad is rich. The narrator is Oswald, the oldest boy. He endeavours to tell his story in third person but slowly reveals that he’s the narrator because he is far less critical of himself than anybody else. The books is about their adventures in the countryside while trying to be ‘good’ and cease their evil ways. They try to discover the source of a river, get locked in a mysterious tower, sink a raft in the moat, and try to help a widow with her garden by digging up all her vegetables in the middle of the night.
Strange the dreamer summary
Shar: Shanti tried to re-summarise this for me, but this is what I remembered before that.
So there’s this guy called Strange, who is a librarian. He’s obsessed with this city called Weep that is real but stopped sending out envoys and traders a hundred years ago and nobody know about it. THen these people from Weep turn up, recruiting all these different people to help them with a ‘shadow over their city’, but with no further details, and Strange begs and sweet talks his way on board. He turns up in Weep, and it turns out there’s this floating rock thing where gods used to live, and the gods were bad and controlled them. The group’s task is to get rid of the floating rock. But it turns out that some of the god’s kids are still living up on the rock palace thing. There’s a few, and one who looks like a child but isn’t and is really mean. And there’s another who gives people below dreams with bees or some kind of insects, and she meets Strange. And then things get really dramatic and somehow the girl dies and then you’re like HOW CAN THERE BE A SEQUEL and the other god girl is really mean.
Shanti: this is actually the bare bones of the plot, so you get 7/10. Good job! I just want you all to know as our loyal audience, that Shar put up with me trying to tell her the entire plot of the book when she was trying to sleep. Basically the plot is what you said but more DETAILS and more TRAUMA. There is an angel shaped palace and the not-gods were serial rapists and the name was forgotten because it was swallowed. 😱😱 But it is somehow beautiful, and Strange makes friend with the girl, whose name is Sarai, in each other’s dreams and they are very in love. And there is a very interesting character called Thyon who is supercilious yet simultaneously deserving of compassion.
City of the beasts summary
Shanti: There is this boy called Alex and he has a very badass grandmother who is a newspaper reporter and is doing some long distance feature in South America, the kind that magazines would never pay for these days . She has thrown him in the deep end before, literally, and now his mum or someone has cancer and so he wants to get the cure but no, he is being spirited away to Brazil with his grandmother. There he meets this super punk chick called Nadia and not all the women wear tops. They go deep into the jungle, so deep, peculiarities and uncanny events accumulating with whispers of a legend about some beasts–is this what his grandmother has come to investigate. Nadia and Alex are good friends and eventually run off without the rest of their team and meet these COOL AS beasts who are like peaceable little people and then they sacrifice their flute music and a big egg rock that Nadia got from her dreams and somehow they get the cure for cancer but have to SACRIFICE because MEANING and METAPHOR. Also Alex is usually a bit of a wet blanket but relatable.
Shar: Okay so you’re generally on track. I’d give you 7/10–her His mum has cancer and the grandma is indeed on a journalism trip looking for the beasts. Nadia and Alex don’t choose to run off from their group, they’re captured by the People of the Mist, an indigenous tribe that fears being detected from the foreginers. Alex has to stick his arm in a tube of fire ants (this detail always stands out to me) and then they are lead to the City of the Beasts, which is also El Dorado (El Dorado turns out to be fool’s gold.) The beasts are intelligent humanoid beings that are slow as sloths and talking to them takes ages. Alex sacrifices his grandfather’s amazing flute (his grandad was a famous flute player) and Nadia sacrifices her special talisman given to her by a shaman to get these eggs she’d dreamed about. They get back and this doctor is trying to inject the People of the Mist with measles to kill them, but is stopped just in time (lots of colonial undertones). When they leave and Alex goes back to the US to give his mother the Water of Life he has collected, Nadia tells Alex the eggs are massive diamonds that can be sold to start a foundation to protect the People of the Mist. Alex isn’t too wet by the end of the book, but I wouldn’t call him relatable either.
Have you read any of these? How would you do at summarising a book you haven’t read in years? Should we do more of these features? What does your Christmas hold?