Warning: Contains Spoilers!
Their red eyes sparkled in the firelight and shone with the hunger and hatred that drove them.
Aufwader’s Thoughts: Now we return to Oswald and Piccadilly on their hunt for Audrey’s mousebrass, and we begin to understand why Oswald is so hapless and down-trodden. Like with Twit and the story of his parents, I shed a tiny tear when I think of the hurt and feelings of rejection which Oswald has endured for the whole of his life. Combined with Piccadilly’s achingly brave shouldering of his own orphan status, it’s no wonder that this pair are at the top of many a reader’s Characters Who Most Need A Hug list.
In their small, sad conversation, Oswald and Piccadilly bring to light perhaps one of the most important themes in all of Mr Jarvis’ work: the necessity of true and loyal friendship. Oswald may have an appalling time of it in the Skirtings community, and Piccadilly may have no family, but, as they begin to realise in this chapter, they have each other – along with Arthur and Twit and (hopefully) Audrey.
Following this adorably awkward scene, we move right into ‘Oswald and Piccadilly in: A Brush with Protracted and Grisly Death’ as One-Eyed Jake and his band slink by on their way to the Skirtings. Courageously, the mice contrive to distract the rats and so spare the lives of their loved ones, but not before they get a lovely catalogue of the many and varied ways in which Jake and his cronies deal with their victims. All are quite ghastly, and cover everything from a traditional live peeling to my favourite, the good old crispy mouse-ear. Which of the rats’ murderous methods do you like best, O Ravening Readers?
Matt’s Thoughts: I love the halfway points in Jarvis novels. The action has heated up, and all the gas burners are turned on. This is a fairly straightforward chapter, but we do start to see Oswald become more brave – plus we also find a little bit about the awkwardness and insecurity that he’s lived with most of his life.
Then we have the rats! One-Eyed Jake, Fletch, etc. I always loved his rat villains, especially because of the illustration in this chapter. Their evil faces and long, tall forms, compared with the short innocent mice make such a contrast. I realised what I didn’t quite express in an earlier post about his villains is that they were unusual for their time, because a lot of villains in kids’ stories were more cartoonish back in those days. (At least in the books I read!) Less than intelligent, easily fooled, comic characters.
Whereas there is almost nothing comic about Jarvis’ rats. (Though possibly you could make an exception for the number of creative verbal riffs they have on all things to do with snot, slime and poxes … a clever way of making them coarse without anything that would count as coarse language.)
Anyway, we’re in the middle of a water chase … on to the next chapter!